Music Junkies: Good Idea Review

Good Idea is the first public release from production music company Music Junkies. 

Featuring tracks written by 13 different composers, it ranges in style from epic orchestral to techno and sound design.

Most Trailer Music fans are familiar with Music Junkies as the creative force behind Ars Arcana and their excellent 2004 release of The Savage Tongue. Music Junkies is unlike many companies in the business which only feature music by a handful of composers, as nearly 70 different people have contributed tracks over the company’s 18 year history. With a rich and diverse catalog, there can be no doubt that Music Junkies is the home of a plethora of brilliant and evocative works. Devoted fans have spent years pleading for public releases, and now we have a chance to hear some of these tracks for ourselves (Which is just as well, because my strategy of ambushing anyone involved with Music Junkies and spraying them with a cheap water gun while laughing manically didn’t seem to do much).

Good Idea features tracks by no less then 13 different composers, including a song by Two Steps From Hell co-founder Nick Phoenix and several pieces by Kerry Muzzey. The album is a compilation of tracks from the entire Music Junkies catalog, ranging in genre from epic orchestral and choral to techno and everything in between. Unlike The Savage Tongue, for this release Music Junkies doesn’t have the luxury of a live orchestra and choir. Thankfully, thanks to modern technology this is not a particularly huge hindrance when utilized properly.

Though the album seems like a recipe for success, Good Idea is ultimately an inconsistent scramble that falls slightly short both as a listening experience and as a showcase of the best Music Junkies has to offer to fans. While looking through my dictionary to learn more about adorable little rodents, I stumbled across a picture of Good Idea next to the dictionary entry for “Mixed-Bag”. Its a pretty accurate description of the album as a whole, though I haven’t figured out what trailer music was doing in my dictionary (or why i was looking for that information in a dictionary in the first place).

Do not misunderstand me – there is definitely a good side to this album, and there are a few truly powerful and emotional pieces scattered throughout. “Fatal Fantasy” is easily the best of the bunch, and it is the splitting image of a solid, uplifting and epic trailer cue that wouldn’t feel grossly out of place if it was played by a real orchestra and placed on the next Trailerhead release.

Another bright spot is “Escape Hatch”, which is a fun mix of rock elements and the classical orchestra. Sometimes such unions are doomed to failure, but in this case the two work extremely well together and the result is a very catchy and quirky track unlike anything else out there.

Unfortunately, these songs are the exception rather then the norm. Approximately half of the album is fleshed out by enjoyable though rather unremarkable pieces such as “Cosmos Dei”. (Edit: This track was originally credited to Nick Phoenix, while it was actually composed by Max Cameron). They are tracks which are pleasant enough to listen to and definitely worth a look if you love this style of music. Just don’t count on them to drive you to victory against the armies of guinea general Sparklewhisker, because they aren’t going to be enough. Thankfully, Good Idea is a long album, and we are treated to a solid 35 minutes of enjoyable music.

On the other hand, the remainder of the album leaves me absolutely befuddled. A large portion of Music Junkies catalog consists of minimalistic tracks meant to build tension and atmosphere in productions, and that’s wonderful – when used in productions. Somehow quite a few of these tracks found their way onto this release, which is a shame given the untapped potential in their catalog which would have better suited a public album. Those in charge of compiling the album seem to have forgotten that Good Idea is something that people will purchase and want to listen to, not just a place to shove the most successful tracks from every single genre in the library. I’m renowned for my ability to enjoy music that others find dull, but even I found myself bored to tears by many of the pieces.

“Power Play” is a good example of this, which spends most of its five minutes demonstrating just how dull a single, barely-audible electronic tone can become. As a dramatic tension builder it may work, but as a listening experience it falls on its face spectacularly. There are far too many tracks of this sort in the album, and I’m not sure why. You can read my lengthy hypothesis at the end of this review, the details of which I won’t pester you with here.

If it’s not dull, on occasion the tracks can even be downright unpleasant, such as “Stalker”, which started randomly blaring heavy techno at me. I’m not a particularly big techno fan, so perhaps I’m not the best judge of its sound (Though on the bright side, it seems to work as a guinea pig repellant!), but It left me wondering what it was doing smashed in the middle of the album and if the album was suffering from an identity crisis.

Some artists, such as Yoav Goren and the rest of the crew at Immediate, take time to organize their tracks in a particular order so that the album flows together as a larger work. Good idea has little sense of this, jamming together disparate styles on top of one another in a hurried fashion. You’ll find yourself shifting between genres constantly, rather then listening to a group of similar tracks.

At the end of the day, Good Idea is a mixed blessing. For hardcore Trailer Music Enthusiasts, its absolutely worth a shot for tracks like “Fatal Fantasy”, and overall this release gives us quite a few solid tracks. However, for every good track there is a disappointing counterpart, and there are certainly better releases you could purchase. I earnestly hope that Music Junkies releases another public album, hopefully one which draws primarily from their action and epic compilations and not from their drama and suspense collections. Tracks like “Fatal Fantasy” show that the talent and potential is there, as long as we get the chance to hear it. Because good or bad, I think we can all agree that public releases are always a Good Idea.

Rating: 5 out of 10 stars.

(Please note the following is not part of the actual review and is intended only for comedic effect. Ryan likes to pretend he is funny, and we indulge his fantasies):

My hypothesis is this: Someone at Music Junkies (lets call him “Bob”) had the “good idea” of releasing a public album. As always happens when people get ideas, a light bulb magically appeared over his head and lit up brightly. However, public releases of trailer music are so awesome that this light bulb began to shoot lasers (as seen on the cover). This drew the attention of the guinea pig mafia, who quickly arrived and threatened to torture bob by putting him through the unending exercise wheel of doom unless he told them how to harness this amazing new power. Bob had to show them how to put together a public album, and only had 5 minutes to do so. He was halfway done and had a pretty good tracklist when time ran out, so in desperation he grabbed a bunch of random tracks and smashed them in there. The Guinea Pigs were impressed, so they have begun a new trailer music library of their own called X-Ray Guinea Pig. Their first few albums include “Stand up and Hear”, “Fresh Hay”, “Old Tricks” and “Angry Guinea”Similarities to X-Ray dog albums is entirely a coincidence.

I’m not actually sure about any of this, but it seems to be the most logical explanation.

Good Idea is available to the public for purchase in digital format through iTunesAmazonBandcamp and CDBaby, and as physical CD through Amazon and CDBaby. For licensing information, contact Music Junkies.

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August 1, 2010