Three reasons why Kick-Ass 2 doesn’t kick ass: 1) No Nic Cage; 2) No Jane Goldman/Matthew Vaughn creative naughtiness; 3) No John Murphy on the soundtrack. The self-taught Scouse composer has been hot stuff since he delivered his 28 Days Later score and the neck hair-raising themes he wrote for Sunshine. Lionsgate thought he was hot stuff too and commissioned him to rework ‘Sunshine (Adagio in D Minor)’ for Kick-Ass - the result was ‘Strobe’, a searing two-minute anthem heard as Hit Girl rescues Big Daddy from the warehouse. Fans wanted a longer cut and the Strobe EP is Murphy’s response, expanding his most famous cut to a blistering seven minutes and backing it with atmospheric trip-hop.
The Extended Dirty Guitar mix of ‘Strobe’ takes the short version’s strongest elements - thudding beats, that golden i-VI6-III64-VII formula - and turns them up to 11. Only previously available in its clipped form and only in the UK, this version is worthy of crossing the pond: think Billy Corgan let loose on an orchestra. The chords flip over into electric guitar, stumbling, craning and as angry as music should be when accompanying a 12-year-old slaughtering a warehouse of goons. There’s a break for spacey piano before the guitars make a second pass, eclipsing all other instruments as they hit those E/C/G/A notes and screech louder and more frantically than Godspeed. Every bit as indulgent as a seven-minute rockout should be, it’ll feel like a honey pot to the film’s rabid fans: Murphy wrote it as a reaction to YouTube counterfeits that Kick-Ass nuts were taking as genuine.
The rest of the EP reinterprets other cues from the film. The two-part ‘Sandman’ was born of Murphy’s messing around with the chords he used in the torture scene, where goons in ski mask give Kick-Ass a good leathering. Built around dub bass and icy strings it’s like Faithless when they play a winter festival, the low-end sinking further and further until it mirrors Hans Zimmer’s Dark Knight score. ‘O (Murky Mix)’ features a heavier beat, tape fuzz and mellotrons that build into a repeating downbeat arpeggio. Apparently the title reflects its author’s vision of a European porn film - if you’re having sex to this, you either need a long walk in the park or a break from necrophilia.
The EP concludes with the title track remixed by producer Tyler Barton, who adds chugging guitar, ticking drums and a hypo of pop energy. Piano chords echo over Eighties synth, recalling German trance tracks, or Bis when they got angry as the familiar leitmotif plays in synth-strengthened glory. It moves Murphy’s original composition in the direction of the dance floor, and shows just how powerful those climbing chords are: let Al Pacino talk over this and it could start a war. The most commercial moment in the soundtrack spin-off EP yet it lifts Strobe up there with Moon tribute Selene, taking liberties with a piece of music that’s already powerful enough to grab you without images. Murphy’s releasing it through his own label Taped Noise hopefully means there are more scores - and more inventive liberties - to come.
7George Bass's Score