‘Isle of Dogs’: Original Soundtrack reviewed

An esoteric collection of Oriental claps, Philip Glass backtracks and sixties psychedelic delights.

When my editor-in-chief informed me that he had a doggy soundtrack for me to review, I thought he’d gone barking mad! Was he giving me a biscuit or something even woofer than that? What was being unleashed from the kennel? After refraining myself from more canine jokes, I was pleasantly surprised by the soundtrack I was listening to. It’s an esoteric collection of Oriental claps, Philip Glassian backtracks and sixties psychedelic delights, the paw-prints of Academy Award winning French composer Alexandre Desplat all over the hounding project (and those are definitely the last of the jokes!).

Desplat’s past Oscar wins includes 2017’s The Shape of Water and Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel and he may be onto another Oscar nomination with this one. This Anderson project is one of the Rushmore/Darjeeling writer’s more ambitious films, a stop motion picture featuring an array of differing sized puppies (even by Anderson’s standards, the cast list of Bryan Cranston, Greta Gerwig, Edward Norton and Yoko Ono is an eclectic one).  Desplat complements Anderson’s idiosyncratic style with kooky collections of overcoming drum beats that play out as a musical motif. The pervasive taiko drums are immersive, with the added touch of jocular feeling throughout. Acclaimed taiko drummer Kaoru Watanabe artfully blends his knowledge of the instrument with Desplat’s cinematic concepts.

Woodwind’s whirl on The Municipal Dome with the waded willows of a Wallace and Gromit soundtrack is a fine track, Second Crash-Landing + Bath House merges the album’s ever present Japanese flavours with continental horns. Six Months Later + Dog Fight has a hum along quality to it that evokes the joyous march themes of Wartime Christmas Classics Bridge Over The River Kwai and The Great Escape.

This collection also includes I Won’t Hurt You, a Byrds like jangle from the mid-sixties. This West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band tune joins This Time Tomorrow (The Kinks) These Days (Nico) A Quick One, While He’s Away (The Who) and Jersey Thunder (Donovan) in a list of Anderson featured psychedelic deep cuts that will likely soar in the playlists of the millennial generation. The Sauter Finegan Orchestra fifties jangle Midnight Sleighride (yes, bits of it do sound like Greg Lake’s I Believe In Father Christmas) is another pleasant filler. Akira Kurosawa fans are also in for a musical treat- but we’re not going to spoil it for you!

But the soundtrack is primarily Desplat’s baby, and it’s a jovial one. Jazz swinging Pagoda Slide rings with the Upright Bass twinging of a fifties movie, while First Bath Of A Stray Dog is a merry mirthful thirty second ditty of water aural vibrations. TV Drumming plays up the thunderous rolls of the taiko drums with feverous ferocity, Kobayashi Canine Testing Laboratory is suitably austere with unpalatable strings striking solidly.

 Laboratory ends and then it’s all back to fun. Re-Election Night, Parts 1-3 with strident chants is tongue in cheek opera at its most gloriously bombastic and the jiving End Titles are more likely to send audiences dancing out of their theatres than walking out. An enjoyable endeavour.

  Wes Anderson’s Isle Of Dogs Soundtrack is currently available from ABKCO. Digitally March 23, Cd March 30, LP Summer 2018.

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