Pros: Unique, fun, not your usual Hans Zimmer (or is it...?)
Cons: Absolutely zero.
The Bottom Line: If steampunk had a soundtrack, it would probably sound something like this.
Yes, I know Sherlock Holmes isn't steampunk, but if a truly great steampunk movie were ever to be made, I think Hans Zimmer ought to be in charge of its music, because he's got a solid handle on the sound already. For anyone familiar with Hans Zimmer, there are maybe one or two elements that will allow you to spot his work, but otherwise it's great to see how expansive his range is. Like a cook, he knows exactly which flavors need to be added in order to get the perfect results that match the film to a T. With Robert Downey Jr.'s eccentric Sherlock Holmes and the old world of London spread out below, Zimmer delivers something equally quirky but with more than enough range to go around.
This is a soundtrack that's great because it performs both functions; puts the movie in mind and remains dynamic and fun enough to listen on its own. Some soundtracks just don't hold up without the movie, making them flat and forgettable. Hans Zimmer, however, knows how to find the perfect balance. So you can smirk at the thought of Holmes being his dry sarcastic self or just lose yourself to the music. I can't distinguish all the instruments being used here because many of them aren't what you typically hear, whereas others are being used in, well, unusual ways. The warped piano, gypsy violin, and banjo somehow manage to blend together, but always deliver the right punch.
1.) Discombobulate 2:24 - My favorite track on here, and I actually love all of them. This is the one you hear at the start and then at the very end - the all-encompassing main theme complete with the strums of the harpsichord
2.) Is It Poison, Nanny? 2:53 - Seems shorter than it is, mostly because the beginning is slow and snaking. A bit of plucking at the strings, some serious drumming, and a nice flourish near the end.
3.) I Never Woke Up in Handcuffs Before 1:43 - If you remember Holmes running after his lovely lady, this is that particular piece of music. Almost exotic in a way, like old gypsy music (oh wait, it's a gypsy violin), I love the way the whole song works with just the fast rapping (like on a pan) and of course, the strings.
4.) My Mind Rebels at Stagnation 4:31 - A slower start again. Languid, if you will. The main theme, but with just one string instrument before the whole thing opens up and allows more instruments into the mix for a fuller theme. It's got a dark part though, and this is where Blackwood comes in with his lurking mood.
5.) Data, Data, Data 2:15 - Slow, dark, and with a few strings that really squeak off into high ends, it's all about sorting and thinking here.
6.) He's Killed the Dog Again 3:15 - Slow winds up into a marching tension filled bit that gets seriously interesting with the dark melodies and unique instrument use. A bit of the main theme here, with a thicker, hungrier, tensed edge to it.
7.) Marital Sabotage 3:44 - The former track gives way to this one, a fast start with the main theme layered on top. A few lulls here and there shouldn't lure you into a false sense of security though - if anything they ought to make you more aware of what's going on around you.
8.) Not in Blood, But in Bond 2:13 - Ah, now here's that slow, mournful gypsy violin again. Appearing and then falling back again as slow motion explosions occur onscreen. Who lives? Who dies? We don't know...
9.) Ah, Putrefaction 1:50 - I think this is the wonky piano (makes me think of a harpsichord, honestly)
10.) Panic, Sheer Bloody Panic 2:38 - More of the main theme, toyed with just a bit for our enjoyment (and to match the film of course). Yay.
11.) Psychological Recovery...Six Months 18:17 - Obviously the longest track on the CD, which is nothing new for Zimmer (don't believe me? Go check the times on Crimson Tide). But this is essentially the entire final chunk of the movie, from the bit under Parliament to the final end for the villain. My second favorite (if I had to choose). It winds in and out of the theme, has action, downtime, and of course, the final dark finish. The bagpipes were a nice touch, I must say.
12.) Catatonic 6:46 - This is a slower and darker track that stalks along - it's what you hear in the credits long after most people have left the theater and the names onscreen are still scrolling. But don't let that fool you - it's still got some bite left.
It's hard to say if these are truly in order. Frankly, if we were going in movie order, the first track could easily be last, and a few others would be shuffled around. But I don't much care. The whole CD is really fun to listen to, which is something I don't recall saying in a long time. At least, for a soundtrack. Perhaps Mirrormask. Normally I hope my soundtracks inspire me, but this one is fun. No, really, that's it. You just have a good time listening to it. It doesn't have to do anything to make you keep listening. There's no chorus for me to fawn over, no super-elaborate climaxes to fall over. It's just fun.
Of course, you'll have to like the style that Zimmer used first. The instruments and so forth. If you can't get past the banjo plucking, the squeaky gypsy violin, or the wonky piano (or the accordions and crazy thrumming orchestra and drums), then perhaps you're not suited to this soundtrack. But I heartily encourage you to at least listen to a track or two before making a final decision.
This also demonstrates yet another thing Zimmer can do really well - repeat a theme over and over and never allow it to become tired or repetitive. I've lost count of how many times I've listened to this soundtrack, and I always play them while I write these reviews, and as of right now I'm in the middle of #11 and loving every minute of it. Grinning, feet tapping, head bobbing. Oh, it's good stuff. I admit, I can hear a touch of Pirates in there, but the whole thing is so different, it doesn't ever linger too long in that vein, and even then only soundtrack junkies are likely to pick up on it - if they're paying attention.
Need I really say anymore? Do yourself a favor and pick this CD up. Enjoy.