Norwegian Wood - Original Soundtrack
International Title
 Norwegian Wood
Music By: Jonny Greenwood
Record Label: Sony Music Japan
Running Time: 51:11 Discs: 1
Release: November 2010 CD Number: SICP-2900
Anthony Romero
First off, huge thanks goes to Jessica Stan for sending this disc for review!

Off the top of my head, it's hard for me to picture a more polarizing soundtrack than Norwegian Wood. On one hand, you have great, sometimes breathtaking music by Jonny Greenwood. On the other, you have awful, hard to endure music by Can. While Greenwood's music takes up the lion's share of the CD, the presence of the Can music is impossible to ignore and does drag down the overall quality of this release.

To start with the positive, Greenwood turns a fairly good performance here. It's rare, although not unheard of, to see a Hollywood composer tackle a Japanese production. Steve Jablonsky, the composer for the Transformers films, is a semi-recent example with Steamboy (2004). Greenwood, who is best known for his score to There Will Be Blood, joins this somewhat elusive crowd for his score to the 2010 movie Norwegian Wood. While the composer has a few misfires here, such as the dull "Be Good and Stay Quiet", his opening theme, "I Want to Tidy Up a Little More", is nothing short of amazing. Greenwood also shows his range, capturing the somewhat nostalgic late 1960's atmosphere with the folk guitar heavy "Don't Read What Hasn't Been Baptized by Time". Sadly, the composer also drifts a little out of his scope at times, such as with the sorrowful "Intense Auditory Hallucinations" track where it seems almost over the top in its violin work. I'm usually a fan of these kind of themes, but there is also a point where something tries so hard it deflates its impact. Still, an overall interesting performance by Greenwood, buoyed up a lot by a stunning opening theme.

The true downfall of this CD is the period music, though. While the Beatles song "Norwegian Wood" is absent, to the point where Sony even stresses this since it was included in the movie, music by the experimental rock band Can is in full force. The group was active in the late 1960's and early 1970's, giving the film a dated appeal. However, their music is lackluster at best, slurring lyrics and generally being off key. The group is somewhat lauded for their unusual approach to music, but it's an acquired taste that appeals to a very select group... which I'm not amongst as all of their songs made me leap for the skip button.

Overall, the disc's saving grace is that amazing opening theme. It really transcends everything else, even the other Greenwood cues. Because of this, the music would tend to work better as part of a sampler or compilation, where one can avoid the music by Can which tends to suck the energy out of the Greenwood themes that bookend these songs.
Rating: Star Rating
  1. I Want to Tidy Up a Little More
  2. Meadows, Wind, Woods
  3. Mary, Mary, So Contrary
    By: Can
  4. I'll Come See You Again
  5. Don't Read What Hasn't Been Baptized by Time
  6. Reiko
  7. Bring Me Coffee or Tea
    By: Can
  8. Naoko Died
  9. Be Good and Stay Quiet
  10. Walking About Aimlessly
  11. Quarter Tone Bloom
  12. Don't Turn the Light On, Leave Me Alone
    By: Can
  13. When You Take Me, Take Only Me
  14. Intense Auditory Hallucinations