Aliens


Pro: Those kickass bits are really kickass
Con: Most the soundtrack is quiet (though really, this is to be expected)

The Bottom Line: It can make for interesting background music, though ultimately don’t be surprised if you end up watching the movie afterwards.

You can bet your boots if I’m going to have the Aliens soundtrack I’m going to get the Deluxe Edition. Because why not? You can get some interesting nuggets in deluxe versions. And given how the majority of the soundtrack is going to be quiet (if you’ve ever watched the movie, you’re going to know this beforehand), I’m all for some extra pieces.

Because of that, and because it’s 24 tracks long, I’m going to forgo track-by-track explanation. The deluxe version is about 75 minutes in all, with #13 “Futile Escape” the longest around 8:25 and #22 "Lv-426 (Alternate Edit – Film Version)" at 1:12. It is nice to not have tracks under 1 minute, though. Never been a fan of that.

1. "Main Title" (5:13)
2. "Bad Dreams" (1:22)
3. "Dark Discovery/Newt's Horror" (2:07)
4. "LV-426" (2:03)
5. "Combat Drop" (3:29)
6. "The Complex" (1:34)
7. "Atmosphere Station" (3:11)
8. "Med.Lab." (2:04)
9. "Newt" (1:14)
10. "Sub-Level 3" (6:36)
11. "Ripley's Rescue" (3:19)
12. "FaceHuggers" (4:24)
13. "Futile Escape" (8:29)
14. "Newt is Taken" (2:04)
15. "Going After Newt" (3:18)
16. "The Queen" (1:45)
17. "Bishop's Countdown" (2:50)
18. "Queen To Bishop" (2:31)
19. "Resolution and Hyperspace" (6:27)
20. "Bad Dreams" (alternate) (1:23)
21. "Ripley's Rescue" (percussion only) (3:20)
22. "LV-426" (alternate edit – film version) (1:13)
23. "Combat Drop" (percussion only) (3:24)
24. "Hyperspace" (alternate ending) (2:08)

The vast majority of the music is quiet. It lurks in the background as I suppose it’s meant to, until it comes out in bigger ways, such as in “Ripley’s Rescue,” which is one of the pieces we all clearly know. But actually, I found myself surprised that in even some of those pieces they felt slightly lackluster. Not because the music itself was lacking, but just that it didn’t have quite the same power or impact without Vasquez shouting, “Let’s rock!” and pulse rifles shooting off every five seconds, or Hicks yelling about the goddamn door. So seated within the movie, it’s perfect, my is it perfect. As a standalone it’s not quite as fantastic because what it does is make you want to watch the movie for all the extra badassery that’s you know is going on during those scenes.

There are a few that do manage to stand on their own two legs, though. “Futile Escape” is one of them once it gets going, because then it’s in all out full Aliens glory, with the main trumpeting theme, thumping percussion, and heart-pounding speed. And with it being the longest track, you get plenty of it. “Going After Newt” is pretty badass as well, with the brass section at the start really taking the wheel. “Resolution and Hyperspace” is very heroic and relaxing for about half the track until it gets into its creepy end credits music (which has always kind of weirded me out, to be honest).

There is a bit of unique instrumentation going on in here that you’re just not going to hear in the movie because there’s way too much yelling and gunfire going on, such as the tiny cymbals (cymballines maybe?) in “Facehuggers” (seriously, fuck those things), or those tiny sparkling sounds in “Resolution and Hyperspace,” or the way some of the flutes shift up and down, or the combination of percussion during slower parts. It’s the kind of soundtrack that uses instruments in ways to create sounds you never expected them to make.

It is fun in that despite the fact that this soundtrack came before all of them, I can hear pieces of Horner’s later work that he carried over. A little slice of Willow in “Resolution and Hyperspace,” and bits and pieces of military for “Avatar.”

The alternate versions are interesting. “Bad Dreams” is just as creepy and uses a different main instrumentation than just strings (I’m honestly not sure what is making that sound) and I think would have worked just as well. I wonder just how many alternate bits there really were considering how much Horner worked on the score in order to get it to James Cameron’s satisfaction. The funny part is that I’ve always thought of these two together, which is true enough, but after working on this score, James Horner apparently even stated that he was never working with Cameron again due to the conditions and stress. True enough until 1997 when Titanic came about.

Aliens wasn’t Horner’s first musical rodeo. Not by a long shot. But it’s the earliest soundtrack by him that I have. I’d love to get more at some point, such as The Rocketeer and Star Trek: Wrath of Khan. And this soundtrack was the one that got him his first Academy Award nomination – a fact that surprised me when I first learned it because since when does Hollywood give two craps about science fiction or fantasy? But given how unique it probably was at the time – and in many, many ways still is – I completely understand.

I’m going to miss his music, so I guess I’ll have to take my time in reviewing the rest. In a way I guess it’s fitting that I’m ending my little tribute to Horner on a note that takes place among the stars. Thanks for making music that gets my heart pumping. Thanks for making music that has inspired me. And thanks for making music that’s so powerful I’ve cried.

It’s been a damn fine time.


NT

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I am an author, I sell books for a living, and I love music like there's no tomorrow. I've experienced much of this country, from forested hills of the East, to the golden plains of the Midwest, the sandy beaches of the Southeast, and the oh-so-majestic mountains of the Rockies. And when all else fails, eat chocolate.