Edda Dell’Orso’s soprano wails open this album in a clipped dramatic manner that sets you up for the natural experience of the best score never actually used on film. It mingles Jeff Buckley and film noir. For an opening track to linger as long as this just isn’t fair to the rest of the album which can’t quite live up to ‘Theme Of Rome’s’ promise.
As one of the most digital musicians of our age, you will have consumed Danger Mouse’s work in some manner, whether it be the impossibly hard to find The Grey Album or the pop phantasm of Gnarls Barkly. Daniele Luppi, though, will be newer to most and it is his influence which is perhaps the more prominent sound of the album. An Italian composer, Luppi garnered the attention of the world for his album An Italian Story which revisited his cinematic childhood sounds, and it’s no surprise to learn that he has written for the screen, providing songs for Sex and The City and Nine. In keeping with the themes of Italiano and film, Rome was recorded at a studio initially founded by Ennio Morricone, though the album also uses the original orchestras from classic films such as The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and Once Upon a Time in the West. These two musicians have used sounds more familiar to 40 years ago to create a record that reflects the zeitgeist perfectly.
Rome took five years to make, was self-funded by Danger Mouse, and recorded in the same manner as tracks were in the 60s and 70s. What we are left with then is a cinematic pop-record truly and unimaginably different to anything that has gone before.
In a twist of events as unlikely as anything on this album, Norah Jones and Jack White are the two main vocalists and, while they never feature on the same song, their voices sound shockingly in tune with each other. Jones’ leaves behind the boring pop persona the world associates her with for something much more charming and her light vocal slur works in tandem with the naturalness of it all. White, however, is a much more daring choice of vocalist and it pays off as his raw rock n’ roll exuberance is laid over finely tuned and polished instrumentals to create some of the best tracks on the album. The two “stars” of the album though only sing on six tracks out of 15. The rest are a series of interludes – ‘Her Hollow Ways (interlude)’ being the finest – and instrumental numbers heightened only by the use of choirs and that is all they need.
These tracks are left unspoiled which is a godsend because brushed drums, clean classical guitars, and pianos create that organic sound that they were after, the sound that reminds you of dusty landscapes and westerns, the sound that is ageless. These tracks such as ‘Roman Blue’ and ‘The Gambling Priest’ aren’t just filler for the more radio friendly numbers featuring lyrics, but work in harmony with the album as a whole. This is a package not designed for the iPod shuffle generation, but one which you can only appreciate when heard in full. That said, you can pull some singles from this album and ‘Two Against One’ featuring Jack White stands out with it’s fast talking lyrical play (“make no mistake I don’t do anything for free/ and I keep my enemies closer than my mirror ever gets to me”) and staccato pop we are used to hearing from The White Stripes.
As cinematic a record as you are ever likely to hear, this is pop in its purest and most all-encompassing form. This is pop as it should be and you should hear it. Five years of hard work has created one of the most ambitious, unique, interesting, and haunting works of recent history. With Rome, Danger Mouse and Daniele Luppi have brought their beautiful vision to the world and we should thank them for it.
Release date: 16/05/2011