What does it sound like?:
I must admit that I pre-ordered this as soon as I knew it was in the pipeline, thinking that a collection of classic Carpenter tunes on vinyl — we’re talking Assault On Precinct 13, The Fog, Halloween, They Live, Escape From New York… all the classics — would be tippety-top, just what the doctor ordered.
It wasn’t until I actually played it that I made what was an initially dismaying discovery: yes, it’s all the classics, but they’re not the originals. Instead, for reasons best known to themselves, Carpenter, aided by his daughter, Karen, and his son, Ifiwera, have revisited and re-recorded the gems from his back catalogue.
This is the same team behind Carpenter’s recent musical-renaissance albums, ‘Lost Themes’ and ‘Lost Themes II’, but the results here are less mixed. While both of the ‘Lost Themes’ album had tentpole moments surrounded by a fair amount of half-arsed noodling, every track on ‘Anthology’ is solid gold. Correction: almost every track. Personally I can live without the bar-brawl electric guitar he’s always been fond of, most evident here on Big Trouble In Little China’s ‘Porkchop Express’ and ‘In The Mouth Of Madness’. But since the former is followed by the loping stroll of ‘They Live’ and the latter by the nailed-on classic ‘Assault On Precinct 13’, we’ll forgive him these little indulgences.
The elephant, then, is this business of re-recording the songs, and I’m happy to report that it doesn’t hurt the album in the slightest. Carpenter and co. have taken the eminently sensible decision not to mess with perfection, thus most of the tunes sound identical to the originals. Exceptions? Well, ‘The Thing’ is definitely not ‘The Thing’ you’re familiar with, but that’s probably because it was an Ennio Morricone composition in the first place. I dare say it might be the same with ‘Starman’, but I’m not sufficiently au fait with the original to say. Most sound more like a remaster than a re-record, and are just as spare, simple and evocative as you remember them, which is very spare, simple and evocative indeed. Synthwave is all the rage right now, what with the Stranger Things soundtrack and Cliff Martinez’s scores just the tip of a particularly brilliant iceberg. But Carpenter got there first, and those who follow in his footsteps would give their right arms for his grasp of atmosphere and his ability to combine it with unforgettable hooks. I therefore award this album 8/10.
What does it all *mean*?
I don’t know what it all means.
Goes well with…
Might suit people who like…
Synthwave old and new: Goblin, Tangerine Dream (especially their soundtrack for ‘The Keep’) Cliff Martinez, S U R V I V E, Deadly Avenger, Carpenter Brut, Perturbator, Gunship, Dance With The Dead, Dynatron.