The Brilliance of Junkie XL: A review of ‘Fury Road’s’ soundtrack

I was just a bit stunned by the wonderful music I heard while watching the latest Mad Max film.  You can see a bit of why in the video clip below dedicated to the composer Junkie XL—who used to be a DJ in a previous life.  The music to me sounded remarkably like Hans Zimmer’s score on Man of Steel.  So I wondered if Zimmer knew that Junkie used some of his Man of Steel music in Fury Road.  After a quick check I discovered that the two composers have studios next to each other in Santa Monica and that they have become close friends.  So that explained why the music was so jaw dropping phenomenal.  The use of drums in Man of Steel for me was a major milestone in soundtrack design and I have been looking forward to other scores utilizing the same creative use.  Fury Road was that next film and the music is so heart pounding excellent that the moment the movie was over, my wife and I went on an incredible journey to find the soundtrack.

On May 15th I had long-planned to take the afternoon off my normal obligations and see Mad Max with my wife.  When we were dating I showed her all the Mad Max films along with Dirty Harry so we could see if we’d like each other enough to continue our relationship.  She of course loved them, so we got married.  For me, if a woman didn’t understand Mad Max and Dirty Harry, she wouldn’t be capable of sharing a life with me, so liking those films was a deal breaker.   For me it’s almost a religious experience to see a Mad Max film, so I blocked off the afternoon to see the move.  Before the film I was able to have lunch with my wife, one of my daughters and my grandson.  It put me in an exceptionally good mood for actually seeing the movie.  I knew I would like the film—I wasn’t sure how much—but it was overall leading up to the movie a very positive, long-planned experience.

After the movie my wife and I looked at each other knowing we had just watched a masterpiece for the first time and professed our love for the film until the last credit cleared the screen.  READ MY REVIEW BY CLICKING HERE.  But that soundtrack for Junkie XL was stuck in my head and I wanted the music.  I didn’t want to wait to receive it from  I wanted it in the car for my ride home.  So we went on a journey all over Cincinnati to find it.  We checked Barnes and Nobel on Fields Ertle Road first—they didn’t have it.  Then we went to Target and Best Buy in that same area.  They didn’t have it.  We then hit the highway and headed to the Streets of West Chester to the Barnes and Nobel there.  They surprisingly didn’t have it either.  I was really getting frustrated.  So we were about to give up and go home.  But not wanting to surrender we hit one last spot, the Best Buy at Bridgewater Falls.

I love the Best Buy at that location because it’s full of new technology all the time.  It’s a big store relative to some of the others and always has a nice ambiance to it.  I’ve bought a lot of computer equipment, video games and appliances there, so I generally love my visits to the Best Buy at Bridgewater Falls.  After some frantic looking I found two copies of Fury Road stuck behind soundtracks to Pitch Perfect 2—and I beheld them as if they were treasures from the Sierra Madre.  We bought one of them and headed to our car where we spent the next hour listening to the music from our sound system.  It was a brilliant score well worth the purchase.  I didn’t stop the music over the whole duration of the following weekend.

The key to the success of the music is the inventiveness of the ambition behind the score that obviously is inspired by Hans Zimmer.  But Junkie XL brought a kind of rock and roll ambition to it that is strangely evocative of the dystopian world of George Miller.  Unlike the old Blade Runner soundtrack which is a favorite of mine, Fury Road is full of hope and energy.  I found it strangely compelling which is something I didn’t expect.

It didn’t take much time for me to get the soundtrack on my iPod where I proceeded to listen to it on a loop for several days.  By the time I wrote this little piece on it, I have heard it upwards of 25 complete times and I like it more each time I hear it.  It is another wonderful and often unappreciated journey into musical mayhem by some of the most creative people in the movie business.  I have included some videos on this article about Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL to provide some context as to why I love soundtracks so much—often more than the movies themselves.  As I’ve said before there isn’t one work of music on my iPod out of 8 gigs of storage ability that is not a soundtrack to some movie.  I love mythology, movies are modern mythology, and the music of movies is what holds those stories together.  Without a good soundtrack, a movie isn’t much.  But with a good soundtrack, a movie can tell its story on a scale that lasts.  For me one of those benchmarks was the Man of Steel soundtrack.  So it came to me as a surprise to learn that Hans Zimmer and his friend Junkie XL were working on the soundtrack to Dawn of Justice together, with Junkie handling the Batman tracks while Zimmer works the Superman needs.  Now that I’ve heard Junkie XL named more formally Tom Holkenborg, create such a masterpiece with Fury Road I am eagerly looking forward to the next Superman film by Zach Snyder.

Music is one of those things that stays with you long after the lights come up in a darkened theater.  If the story was a good one, the music of the movie can go with you anywhere you wish by the soundtrack of the film.  After Fury Road I couldn’t wait to keep my mind in that mythology because there were thoughts there that were pertinent to my observations—and the music helped usher those thoughts along.  So the journey was hard-fought and worth the effort, because the work that Junkie XL brought forth is indicative of a treasure that will continue giving for many years.  And for me, that means many more Friday afternoons with my wife and the treasures of cinema that come from blocked off mythology given to minds that love the stories they tell on the backs of really good music.

Rich Hoffman


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