The soundtrack to Wes Anderson’s 2004 film The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou is an album that features a different array of music that is led by longtime Anderson collaborator Mark Mothersbaugh. Along with some of Motherbaugh’s score pieces, the soundtrack includes various cuts by David Bowie that is performed by one of the film’s cast members in Seu Jorge. With additional material by Ennio Morricone, the Stooges, Scott Walker, and the Zombies. The soundtrack is an eclectic mix of music that is fun although it is the weakest of all of the soundtrack albums made for the films of Wes Anderson.
Opening the album is Sven Libaek’s Shark Attack Theme which is a song that is a mixture of soothing flutes and woodwinds with an accompanying background of lush string orchestras and vibraphones that play up to the music of Steve Zissou’s documentary. Mark Motherbaugh’s Loquasto International Film Festival is an orchestral score piece that includes soothing string arrangements, a flourishing horn solo, a somber flute, and an acoustic guitar that plays to the world of the film festival that Steve Zissou and crew attends. The next two cuts are songs by David Bowie as the first is the soaring ballad Life on Mars? that plays to a scene where Zissou meets his supposed long-lost son Ned Plimpton. The second Bowie track is in the form of an acoustic cover of the song Starman performed by Seu Jorge as his character sings the song to play up the quirkiness of the film.
The Mothersbaugh score piece Let Me Tell You About My Boat is a mid-tempo piano instrumental that features soft percussions, flourishing woodwinds and string instruments as Zissou takes Ned on a tour of his boat. Seu Jorge’s cover of Bowie’s Rebel Rebel is another acoustic cut as Jorge sings the song to play up the Belafonte’s departure to find the Jaguar shark and kill it. Motherbaugh’s Zissou Society Blue Star Cadet/Ned’s Theme Take 1 is another score piece that is led mostly a soft percussion and a calm piano as it then becomes an upbeat electronic track led by warbling analog synthesizers to play up Team Zissou’s exploration underwater. Devo’s Gut Feeling is a frenetic post-punk track that starts off a bit slow and then build up into something faster with its guitars, drums, and keyboards as it plays up Team Zissou’s continuous journey on sea.
Sven Libaek’s Open Sea Theme is a swift yet calm jazz-piece led by a flourishing piano melody with soothing woodwinds and guitar melodies that plays to the exotic world of the sea that Team Zissou is fond of. Seu Jorge’s cover of Rock N’ Roll Suicide is another acoustic ballad cut that has Jorge playing to some of the somber moments of the film. Ennio Morricone and Joan Baez’s Here’s To You is a mid-tempo track that is led by Morricone’s broad yet sumptuous musical accompaniment as Baez sings the song in an operatic quality as it’s a song that the Jane Winslett-Richardson character listens to in her room as she falls for Ned. Mothersbaugh’s We Call Them Pirates Out Here is a chilling score that includes cadence drum fills and sinister string arrangements as it plays to the arrival of the pirates who decide to take control of the Belafonte and its crew.
Iggy and the Stooges’ Search and Destroy is a raucous proto-punk with blazing guitars and Iggy Pop’s snarling vocals as it’s a scene where Steve Zissou goes on a rampage to attack the pirates aboard on his ship. Paco de Lucia’s La Nina de Puerta Oscura is a flamenco-based piece led by rhythmic claps and flourishing guitars as Steve Zissou seeks aid from his estranged wife Eleanor at her private home. Seu Jorge’s cover of Life On Mars? is presented as a poignant acoustic ballad as he sings to the melancholia that surrounds the Belafonte. The Mothersbaugh score piece Ping Island/Lightning Strike Rescue Op is an electronic instrumental led by a tapping drum machine, fuzzy synthesizer melodies, and soothing flutes and strings that play the same melody as Team Zissou goes on a rescue mission to fight off remaining pirates.
Seu Jorge’s cover of Bowie’s Five Years is another acoustic ballad as Jorge’s character sings to reflect the moments Team Zissou had dealt with following the rescue mission. Scott Walker’s 30 Century Man is a mid-tempo folk piece as Scott Walker sings in his baritone vocals as Ned Plimpton decides to get the team back on track to find the Jaguar shark. The Zombies’ ballad The Way I Feel Inside is a poignant piece with somber lyrics as it is a melancholic tune that plays to a key moment of sadness that occurs in the film. Closing the album is David Bowie’s upbeat rocker Queen Bitch as it plays to film’s final moments as Zissou finds redemption as he and his team walk to the Belafonte.
While the music presented in the soundtrack is fantastic, the big flaw with the soundtrack are what is missing in the soundtrack. Along with more of Seu Jorge’s covers of David Bowie songs that would appear in his The Life Aquatic Studio Sessions album that featured more proper recordings of those songs. The other notable omission is Sigur Ros’ Staraflur which appears in one of the film’s big moments as well as New Order’s Ceremony that was in the film’s trailer. Despite these omissions, the soundtrack for The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou is still a pretty fun album to get from Wes Anderson and score composer Mark Mothersbaugh.
Wes Anderson Soundtracks: Bottle Rocket - Rushmore - The Royal Tenenbaums - Seu Jorge-The Life Aquatic Studio Sessions - The Darjeeling Limited - Fantastic Mr. Fox - (Moonrise Kingdom)
Wes Anderson Films: Bottle Rocket - Rushmore - The Royal Tenenbaums - The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou - Hotel Chevalier - The Darjeeling Limited - Fantastic Mr. Fox - Moonrise Kingdom - The Auteurs #8: Wes Anderson
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