Burn After Reading

Composed By: Carter Burwell

Distributed by: Lakeshore Records

Reviewed by Melissa Minners


            The Coen Brothers’ black comedy, Burn After Reading, stars John Malkovich as CIA analyst Osbourne Cox.  Facing a demotion, Cox quits the CIA and settles at home to write his memoirs.  Wife Tilda Cox (Tilda Swinton) wants a divorce so that she can stop lurking around with her new love, Treasury agent Harry Pfarrer (George Clooney).  At the advice of her divorce attorney, Tilda copies her husband’s files from his computer onto a compact disc.  Unfortunately, the lawyer’s secretary accidentally leaves the disc behind at a fitness club, where it is picked up by employees Chad Falheimer (Brad Pitt) and Linda Litzke (Frances McDormand).  Upon learning the contents of the disc, which include some highly classified CIA files, they devise a scheme to blackmail Osbourne Cox, but thinkgs don’t work out quite as planned.

              Having worked with the Coen Brothers before on films like Fargo, The Big Lebowsk, The Hudsucker Proxy, O Brother Where Art Thou? and No Country for Old Men, it was no surprise that Carter Burwell would be chosen to create the soundtrack for Burn After Reading.  An American composer known for his creativity, Carter Burwell has played music in various New York City-based bands and composed for dance theater and film.  My first introduction to Burwell’s work was the soundtrack In Bruges which featured quite a few enjoyable classical pieces.

            The soundtrack of Burn After Reading contains some very serious sounding music for a comedy.  Then again, this is a black comedy which perhaps can account for the serious nature of the music.  The album contains relatively short tracks with a resounding piano theme.  However, the most striking tracks of the album contain a very exotic sounding percussion.  Every time these bursts of percussion appear on the soundtrack, the listener perks up and becomes very attentive.  Special recognition is given to the drummers featured on the soundtrack which include Paul Clarvis, Frank Ricotti, Gary Kettel and Ralph Salmins.

            Although I wish I could say that I thoroughly enjoyed this experience, for the most part, the Burn After Reading Soundtrack was nothing special for me.  Were it not for the percussion pieces, I would have been bored to tears.  It’s possible that the soundtrack melds perfectly with the movie, but as a stand alone album, it’s just not worth spending my hard-earned cash on.  This is one soundtrack I’d definitely take a pass on.


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