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The 'Burbs
1992 Varèse

2007 Varèse

Composed, Conducted, and Produced by:
Jerry Goldsmith

Orchestrated by:
Arthur Morton

Performed by:
The Hollywood Studio Symphony

Albums Produced by:
Robert Townson

Labels and Dates:
Varèse Sarabande

Varèse Sarabande

Also See:
Gremlins 2
Looney Tunes: Back in Action

Audio Clips:
1992 Album:

2. Welcome to Mayfield Pl. (0:34):
WMA (220K)  MP3 (274K)
Real Audio (170K)

3. New Neighbors (0:31):
WMA (202K)  MP3 (251K)
Real Audio (156K)

4. Klopek House (0:31):
WMA (204K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (158K)

6. Neighborhood Watch (0:29):
WMA (188K)  MP3 (232K)
Real Audio (144K)

1992 Album Bonus Clips:

7. A Nightmare in the 'Burbs (0:33):
WMA (213K)  MP3 (266K)
Real Audio (165K)

13. End Titles (0:32):
WMA (209K)  MP3 (258K)
Real Audio (160K)

The 1992 album was the 10th of Varèse Sarabande's original Club titles, VCL 9102.10. It was limited to 1,500 numbered copies, and after selling out from the label, the rare album sold for hundreds of dollars. The 2007 album is a "Deluxe Edition" of 3,000 unnumbered copies as part of Varèse's second Club series. That album quickly sold out as well, though the extra copies in existence have helped keep both albums more reasonably priced on the secondary market.



The 'Burbs
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Buy it... if you want to hear the very best that Jerry Goldsmith's comedy-writing talents had to offer.

Avoid it... if the search for and price of either of the score's strong but limited and sold out albums is not worth hearing a composer poke fun at himself and nearly every musical genre in the book.

The 'Burbs: (Jerry Goldsmith) If a person were to rank the quality of director Joe Dante's satirical comedy films, the pair of Gremlins entries would likely top the list. At the other end of the spectrum is The 'Burbs. While the film struck the right set of chords for a handful of critics, it was otherwise lambasted for simply being "not funny" and the project fell into the pits of obscurity quickly. Taking jabs at nearly every element of American suburbia, the film follows the at-home vacation of Tom Hanks' character and his reactions to the absurd neighborhood in which he lives. Caricatures of the general types of people you find in real life, the personalities and dwellings of the neighbors in The 'Burbs are themselves the punch-line. All sorts of eccentricities are on display, as are the battles between neighbors, both real and imaginary. Dana Olsen's screenplay is a puzzle that's not really meant to be understood or solved, relying on the viewer's ability to underanalyze the film in order to enjoy its pithy discourse. While reviews of the film pounded on that script and the movie as a whole when it debuted in 1988, even mainstream writers recognized that composer Jerry Goldsmith's score was one of (if not the only) bright spot for the picture. Goldsmith and Dante had already collaborated on five films at that point, beginning with Dante's supervision of much of Twilight Zone: The Movie and including the immensely popular Gremlins. While their projects in between Gremlins and The 'Burbs had been of a more serious, action-oriented kind, the comedy fire had already been started. The 'Burbs kindled that fire into a roaring blaze, setting a standard so high that even Goldsmith would have a difficult time reprising it in his subsequent works for Dante (from Gremlins 2 a few years later through Looney Tunes: Back in Action in 2003). The success of Goldsmith's score resides in the fact that composer didn't even try to approach the project with serious intent. The people on screen are all ridiculous stereotypes, so instead of attempting to straighten them out with dramatic musical representations, Goldsmith went in the opposite direction; he made them even more ridiculous. Every single moment in his score for The 'Burbs is a satire of some kind, even resorting to sensitivity during scenes that usually demand suspense.

Before proceeding, though, it's important to mention that The 'Burbs was created at the very height of Goldsmith's experimentation with electronics and sound effects in his music, and while some fans of the composer might argue in favor of Gremlins 2, Goldsmith never achieved the same hopelessly optimistic wackiness from The 'Burbs again. If you don't enjoy the sounds of shooting guns, barking dogs, and shattering glass in your music, then stop reading now. If you don't want to hear a parody of classic Goldsmith themes of eras past, including the echoing brass motif from Patton, then stop reading now. If you can't handle a score that jumps from gothic organs to Western rhythms in an instant without warning, then definitely stop reading now. Goldsmith's choice to score each character on the street with not only a different theme, but an identity embodied by an entirely different genre altogether is the key to success in The 'Burbs. Apart from the film, the music is very badly schizophrenic, a basic requirement of the story. Even Goldsmith's usual sounds of the era, thematic constructs that he would develop throughout the early 1990's, are exaggerated to parody levels. The theme for the neighborhood overall would on paper be appropriate for half a dozen light dramas that Goldsmith would later pen, but with his ridiculous instrumentation, yipping dog sounds, and overly-enthusiastic performance of a dynamic ensemble, he twists it into the realm of the bizarre. A seductive female voice and exotic jungle-like drums over pipe organ in "A Nightmare in the 'Burbs," among a few other cues (the track titles in this review refer to the 1988 release that features Robert Townson's cue titles rather than Goldsmith's), is unlike anything the composer would write elsewhere. Wild viola work in that cue resembles Danny Elfman's more spirited ideas. A string motif in the previous cue, "Neighborhood Watch," combines a waltz-like rhythm that is interrupted on beat by the squeaking of a baby toy (a pull-duck, maybe?). The end title exhibits the various genres and their lovable themes in snapshot succession, leaving your head spinning in the fantasy world that Dante intended to create in our own back yards. Only one serious cue exists in the film, and Goldsmith provides "Storytelling" with a caring string and woodwind piece while a grisly ghost story is being told on screen, a smartly counterintuitive move that serves to only increase the suspicions of the viewer.

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Most film music critics, while praising The 'Burbs as an above-average effort, have historically sold this score short. Perhaps this is because the work is simply too silly to withstand, or maybe such opinions are influenced by the music's scarcity on album. But The 'Burbs represents the pinnacle of Goldsmith's comedy talents, and as such it belongs among the top ten classics in the composer's lengthy career. If this score doesn't bring a smirk to your face, then you should immediately seek either happy pills or the happy plant. The joy that Goldsmith must have had in conjuring up this work is self-evident, and on album it is the exact opposite of the intense labor that you hear out of something like Basic Instinct. The album originally existed only as the 10th entry in Varèse Sarabande's first club series, and it was long considered among the three most valuable of that group. Bootlegged forms of The 'Burbs began floating around the secondary market in the early 2000's, but with minimal extra material (consisting mostly of short snippets of themes performed in full on the club album) and very substandard sound quality. Varèse revisited the score again in 2007, including it as part of its second generation of club titles and expanding its running time considerably. The "Deluxe Edition" is populated mostly with short, redundant performances of ideas featured on the concise 1988 album, though longer cues like "Devil Worship" and "The Wig" are outstanding additions. The sound quality on both limited club titles is superb, with the soundscape sculptured so carefully in the mixing process that various elements within the sound effects and orchestral ensemble bounce with skill between the left and right sides. The entire grouping of sound effects that opens the "New Neighbors" cue enters the scene in only the right channel and slowly progresses back to center as the strings build up to one of the expansive electric guitar, bass string, and pipe organ motifs. Additionally, The 'Burbs is a friendly score to fans of bass-heavy orchestral music. On either of the sold-out Varèse albums, the cues are presented in film order and the score therefore does switch genres and themes seemingly at will. Such is the way of a Dante film, though, so be aware and be prepared. What you might be unable to prepare yourself for is the price tag of an original copy of The 'Burbs, even though it really is worth the search. If you're simply trying to convince your roommates that film music is cool, however, it may not be the right choice. Playing portions of it over a building-wide intercom will not only get you punished, but would likely punch your ticket to an asylum... a sign of a perfect satirical score. ***** Price Hunt: CD or Download

Bias Check:For Jerry Goldsmith reviews at Filmtracks, the average editorial rating is 3.26 (in 113 reviews)
and the average viewer rating is 3.26 (in 138,580 votes). The maximum rating is 5 stars.

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   Re: The Burbs
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   "My Name is Nobody"
  Jackson -- 1/18/07 (6:46 p.m.)
  Bodhizefa -- 7/29/05 (3:13 a.m.)
   Re: The Burbs
  johnston -- 7/28/05 (4:13 p.m.)
   The Burbs
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 Track Listings (1992 Varèse Album): Total Time: 31:04

• 1. Main Title (2:23)
• 2. Welcome to Mayfield Pl. (2:20)
• 3. New Neighbors (2:06)
• 4. Klopek House (2:02)
• 5. Storytelling (3:20)
• 6. Neighborhood Watch (2:01)
• 7. A Nightmare in the 'Burbs (2:30)
• 8. Brownies? (0:47)
• 9. The Assault (2:36)
• 10. Ray Peterson, Neighbor from Hell (1:43)
• 11. Runaway Ambulance (2:24)
• 12. Vacation's End (2:12)
• 13. End Titles (4:10)

 Track Listings (2007 Varèse Album): Total Time: 61:41

• 1. Night Work (Main Title) (2:38)
• 2. The Window/Home Delivery (2:22)
• 3. The Raven (0:51)
• 4. Nocturnal Feeders (:27)
• 5. Good Neighbors (2:06)
• 6. Let's Go (2:04)
• 7. Bad Karma (0:38)
• 8. The Sentinel (3:22)
• 9. My Neighborhood (2:04)
• 10. The Garage (4:24)
• 11. Spare Key (1:19)
• 12. The Note (1:00)
• 13. Devil Worship (1:12)
• 14. The Dream (2:34)
• 15. The Note #2 (1:28)
• 16. This is Walter (2:00)
• 17. Snooping Around (0:50)
• 18. I'm O.K. (1:02)
• 19. Ask Him (1:24)
• 20. What's in the Cellar? (1:00)
• 21. The Wig (2:23)
• 22. Hot Wires (2:39)
• 23. Red Rover, Red Rover (1:11)
• 24. No Beer (3:07)
• 25. Home Furnace (1:44)
• 26. No Lights (0:48)
• 27. Walter's Home (1:58)
• 28. Something is Moving (1:46)
• 29. There's a Body (1:04)
• 30. My Skull/The Gurney (2:24)
• 31. The Trunk (1:41)
• 32. Pack Your Bags (2:15)
• 33. Square One (End Credits) (4:14)

 Notes and Quotes:  

The insert of the 1992 album includes detailed information by Kevin Mulhill about the score or film. The insert of the 2007 album includes the following note from Varèse producer Robert Townson:

    "Universal Pictures released The 'Burbs in February of 1989. No soundtrack album was forthcoming. A mere three years later (although it seemed like a lot longer at the time) the score was rescued in the Varèse Sarabande CD Club. Well, thirty minutes of it was, at any rate. But Jerry Goldsmith's exceptionally inventive and inspired score for The 'Burbs had a lot more to offer. As of 2007, the Musician Union rules have changed in this neighborhood. Though a straight re-issue of our original CD would go against the Club's intent, an expansion of this order (over twice the amount of music) in this new era of soundtrack releases, seemed to warrant a special exception. This expanded edition also returns to Jerry Goldsmith's original track titles, where our previous release featured titles by yours truly. Now over an hour long, this Deluxe Edition of The 'Burbs gives a new generation the chance to discover a comedy classic. It gives those who've been to this neighborhood before the opportunity to revisit the Peterson house, now with a new coat of paint, some new landscaping and a roomy extension that has been added. Hinkley Hills has been refurbished and is all set to weather the next decade or two. It's a great place to raise a family!"

  All artwork and sound clips from The 'Burbs are Copyright © 1992, 2007, Varèse Sarabande, Varèse Sarabande. The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of Filmtracks Publications. Audio clips can be heard using RealPlayer but cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 8/2/97 and last updated 7/13/09. Review Version 5.1 (PHP). Copyright © 1997-2015, Christian Clemmensen (Filmtracks Publications). All rights reserved.