Zombie Zombie - Plays John Carpenter
Commissioning Zombie Zombie to reimagine John Carpenter’s classic oeuvre of horror movie themes for a performance at the Glasgow Film Festival was an inspired idea. Even so, it’s hard to entirely justify the Parisian electro-kraut instrumentalists’ studio recording. In fact, there’s a nagging feeling that, when the relative values are transposed, this isn’t really that different to Oasis covering The Beatles.
While Carpenter’s work was groundbreaking and economical, creating iconic scores with the barest of electronic instrumentation, Zombie Zombie have made a career as stylists rather than innovators. On those terms, they succeed best on ‘The Bank Robbery’, an incidental piece from Escape From New York. Here, they transform a relatively nondescript original into a serviceable kosmische pastiche. Their take on the theme for Assault on Precinct 13 squelches up the distinctive bass riff, adds bongos and wah-wah guitar and yet the effect is less rather than more. And when they flesh out the lean, propulsive Halloween theme into an expansive but somehow thin dance trudge, they are again negating the peculiar qualities that make the original so singular. To finish with, ‘The Thing’ is an odd selection, given that the theme is more properly (although not uncontroversially) attributed to Ennio Morricone. But here they use the space afforded by the minimalist original to better effect, and the result is a lovely droning landscape of shimmering synth.
So while any celebration of Carpenter’s work is welcome, the curious would do better to track down the disco versions by The Splash Band, or better yet, the genuinely unimprovable originals.