With the opening round of the 2014 Formula 1 World Championship underway in Melbourne Australia it felt apt to consider the score and soundtrack to “Rush”. The true tale of the rival between Niki Lauda and James Hunt, Ron Howard’s film which perhaps was sorely overlooked at the Oscars this year. Hans Zimmer is on score duty and manages to produce a piece which has all the hallmarks of a film which naturally involves heavy throttle pounding, screeching tyres and the whine of engines but he does it without becoming too cliché.
Fair enough the opening noise is the distance scream of a V8 engine, that is a little cliché, but from there on in there are no sound effects which creep into the score. The score to “Rush” encapsulates all those elements that you expect from Formula 1 and a driving movie. The opening few tracks are very reminiscent of Trevor Rabin’s work on “Gone in 60 Seconds” but then again, with the same subject matter in hand, it would appear that Zimmer has chosen sounds and melodies that evoke cars and horse power.
The score is dominated by the slide down the neck of an electric guitar, the short thumbing noise on a guitar or bass and the short repeated stabs of violins. All instantly conjure up the images of tarmac, oil and grumbling engines. These sounds feature on virtually every track, however the one thing that is oddly missing from a Zimmer score is numerous motifs. “Rush” really only features one which appears towards the end of the opening track “1976” and then not again until the 19th that being “Mount Fuji”. While this is a shame as it is a stirring melody, the reservation of the motif is powerful. A low stirring double bass melody is lofty yet has gravitas and weight; it stirs emotions and evokes a sense of respected warriors going to battle.
Perhaps the most interesting element on this score is the full out rock numbers which at first listen sound like a session from a late 70’s rock outfit. Drum kits, bass guitars and electric guitars shred and pound away on a surprising number of tracks. This sound roots the score within the era and gives it a swagger and tone which is very classy. “I Could Show You If You Like” is the first track to bring us this vibe, however “Oysters in the Pits” and “20%” manage to combine this rock band fell with a score like quality. “20%” and “Scuderia” come the closest to some sort of Fleetwood Mac tribute drawing heavily on a thumbed bass line to echo the immortal F1 soundtrack that is “The Chain”.
In amongst the score you’ll find songs from the time, again grounding the music in the time of the action on the track. All work really work within the album bar David Bowie’s “Fame” which appears in a live version and just doesn’t sit with the rest of the album at all. Which is a shame, as the song itself is very apt for the closing tracks of the album.
The mark, as ever with Zimmer, is his ability not to cloud the action on screen too much, or try and tell the story for the images that are playing out on the screen. Instead the music only provides the accompaniment. This is best shown on both “Nurburgring” and “Inferno” which mark the moment in the film at which Lauda crashes his car and suffers life altering burns. The former track opens to the distant sound of rain and the impending feeling of something written within the future. It’s brooding and dark, and rises rapidly, echoing “Mombassa” from the “Inception” soundtrack, yet it doesn’t try to provide the sound effects and noises of crunching metals and flaming wreckage, instead it just ramps up the tension and panic to accompany the terror on screen.
The album closes out with a few variations on the warrior motif that was introduced within the very first track. On “Lost But Won” the motif stays within its double bass form but it accompanied by more strings and the full orchestra treatment. While on the closing “My Best Enemy” the motif begins in muted trumpets, before swelling to strings and an accompany choir of voices lifting it to an even loftier place, somehow ethereal and saintly in its closing minutes. And just as it started the album closes to the distant throaty rumble of an engine. For an F1 fan its sublime and a symphony in its own right (sadly missed from the new wheezy sound of F1 2014), but for a score fan, this track is a powerful end to a very different Zimmer piece.