Beowulf Soundtrack
Mass Effect
The Chronicles of Ramlar
Clive Barker's Jericho
Superman: Doomsday
Dead Head Fred
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Bioshock Original Soundtrack
Gears of War
Princess Mononoke
July 06, 2006

Where's Neil When You Need Him?

Tori Amos and other musicians swap their muses, not for two goldfish, but for a shaggy writer in black
Where's Neil When You Need Him?
Songs based on the works of Neil Gaiman
Various artists
Dancing Ferret Disks
MSRP: $13.99
By A.L. Sirois
Neil Gaiman is one of several writers working in comics who have helped uplift the field from big-guys-hitting-other-big-guys to something far more subtle and even, at times, disturbing. This album, from Philly-based Dancing Ferret Discs, contains songs from a collection of artists interpreting various Gaiman works, including Coraline, American Gods, The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish, Stardust, The Goldfish Pool, Sandman, The Wolves in the Walls, Mr. Punch, MirrorMask and Neverwhere. That's quite a catalog from which to choose.
The Sandman stories seem to get the bulk of the attention here. Which is not a bad thing, one hastens to add.
The CD opens with one of two cuts inspired by Coraline, a young-adult book about the eponymous girl who finds a door to another dimension in an old house. This one, which is pretty edgy, is performed by Rasputina and contrasts nicely against the much slower and thoughtful "Coraline" by Rose Berlin, which has a nice whispery background vocal reference to the book's Mouse Circus. The second cut, "When Everyone Forgets," is inspired by American Gods. (Of course, it's fun to speculate that it might come out of Chloe and Dream's discussion of flying in "Brief Lives: 3" from Sandman #43.) It's a very '80s sound, rather like "Hungry Like the Wolf" by Duran Duran. A lot of the tunes on display here have a distinctly '80s sensibility, with lots of synthesizer work on display and yearning, earnest vocals. Again, think Duran Duran.

Although it's pretty easy to snag the genesis of most of the tunes, some are more obscure than others. The liner notes make it clear that "A Fish Called Prince" is based on "the vivid imagery and opportunity for wordplay presented by The Goldfish Pool," as Gaiman says. "Trader Boy" talks about The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish. And "Magda Treadgolds Marchen," being sung in German by an organization called Schandmaul, leaves few clues to English speakers that it's actually from the Sandman story The Kindly Ones.

Mr. Sandman, bring me a dream

Despite tunes like "Vandemar," by Joachim Witt (about Nevermore), and Thea Gilmore's "Even Gods Die," from American Gods, the Sandman stories seem to get the bulk of the attention here. Which is not a bad thing, one hastens to add.

Even the CD's "big gun," Tori Amos, riffs on this Gaiman series. Her offering here is titled "Sister Named Desire," a remastered version of a previously released tune. Remember "Season of Mists," Episode 0 of Sandman? "Despair, Desire's sister and twin, is queen of her own bleak bourne. It is said that scattered through Despair's domain are a multitude of tiny windows, hanging in the void. Each window looks out onto a different scene, being, in our world, a mirror. Sometimes you will look into a mirror and feel the eyes of Despair upon you, feel her hook catch and snag on your heart."

There is a lot to like here, even though, like most compilations, there are good moments and those less good. Standouts include the Coraline tunes, Tapping the Vein's "Trader Boy," "Even Gods Die" by Thea Gilmore, "Come Sweet Death" by Voltaire (sounding a whole lot like Wreckless Eric here), "Mr. Punch" by Future Bible Heroes and the Tori Amos cut, which has lovely piano work. Less good are Deine Lakaien's rather unctuous "A Fish Called Prince" and "The Endless" by Razed in Black, which is too disco for this listener. The other tunes don't make much of an impact but make for perfectly adequate listening.

Interestingly, there are a few tunes not reliant on the old 4/4 rock beat. Hungry Lucy's "We Won't Go" is in 6/8, and the aforementioned Schandmaul's delightful Celtic jig is a peppy 3/4 number. "Even Gods Die" is 3/4, too, but not at all peppy. All in all, quite an interesting experiment from Dancing Ferret. One hopes for more. Like, maybe, Alan Moore? —Al