The Death Waltz Recording Company have given us plenty of John Carpenter reissues in recent times - most notably their long-running Halloween series. Now the label turns its attention to one of Carpenter’s most idiosyncratic and best-loved works, the 1988 sci-fi flick They Live.
The ‘OBEY’ logo is far from They Live’s only cultural legacy. The film’s score, for one, remains an influential piece of movie music. Composed alongside long-time buddy Alan Howarth, Carpenter’s music here has a strong spaghetti western flavour that isn’t often apparent in his other for-screen work. Tracks such as ‘Coming To L.A.’ and ‘Back To The Street’ combine the thousand-yard struts of Ennio Morricone with some distinctly 80s synth work. Elsewhere ‘Transient Hotel’ prefigures the screwball lounge aesthetic of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks, the first series of which came out two years after They Live.
Carpenter’s signature brand of tense electronics is also in effect here. While ‘Underground’ or ‘The Siege Of Justiceville’ may not have the all-out intensity of, say, the Halloween theme, they still rattle around in a moody and menacing manner. Throughout the record a recurring motif and carefully-curated sound palette gives the They Live OST a unified feel. When new instruments are introduced - for instance the electric guitar on ‘Wake Up’ - they simultaneously provide the score with variation and slot into the work as a whole.
The John Carpenter-Death Waltz Recording Company union bears more fruit with this reissue of Carpenter and Alan Howarth’s score for They Live.