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BWW CD Review: AMERICAN PSYCHO (Original London Cast Recording) Brings Driving Synth-Pop to Musical Theater

BWW CD Review: AMERICAN PSYCHO (Original London Cast Recording) Brings Driving Synth-Pop to Musical Theater
Cover art courtesy of Concord Music Group.

The synth-laden opening strains of Concord Music Group's American Psycho (Original London Cast Recording) are appropriately dark and sterile. In crafting the score for the musical adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis' novel by the same title, Duncan Sheik has created a Broadway score that purposefully reminds listeners of synth-pop music by the likes of Giorgio Moroder while mixing in updated technologies to ensure that the score is as crisp and pulsating as any track on Daft Punk's Random Access Memories. The end result is an album filled with addictive looping and backbeats that masterfully mixes throwback modalities with modern technology to create an unexpectedly electronic musical score.

Sheik's original music for the production is often catchy, made complete with driving beats. Tracks like "You Are What You Wear," "Medley: Hardbody / Hardbody Luis," and "Killing Spree" take listeners back in time to Tunnel, the New York City electronic dance club frequented by club kids, Patrick Bateman, and his associates. However, the music of the second act shifts away from dance beats and becomes more dirge-like, solemn, and introspective, especially on tracks like "Nice Thought," "A Girl Before," and "This is Not An Exit." So, it is no surprise that the albums closes out with three up-tempo tracks - "Selling Out (Fisher King Remix)," "Everyone Want to Rule the World (Duncan Sheik Remix)," and "Killing Time 2.0" - to pick the listener back up.

Lyrically, Sheik tends to go for simplistic, easy rhyme schemes on the album. This certainly can be disappointing, especially when compared to his more artfully constructed lyrics for SPRING AWAKENING. However, as vapid, surface-obsessed characters mostly sing the lyrics, the lack of elevation and sophistication feels appropriate. His strongest lyrical work comes in "You Are What You Wear," where the women in Bateman's life concern themselves over which fashion labels are best paired with the food and drink being served at his birthday party. Likewise, the writing for "If We Get Married" showcases Bateman's darkness in pristine juxtaposition to his girlfriend's longing for the most elaborate and excessive wedding.

One of the albums strongest aspects is the gorgeous choral arrangements present in both the original music and the sampled hit songs from the '80s. Sheik keenly creates mesmerizing and sometimes intricately complicated harmonies across the album. Tracks like "In the Air Tonight" (Phil Collins), "Don't You Want Me?" (Jo Callis, Philip Oakey, Philip Adrian Wright), and "Mistletoe Alert" feature impressive and perfectly executed choral moments.

Singing Patrick Bateman, Matt Smith's beguiling baritone is cold and brooding across the album. This veneer falters on tracks like "Oh Sri Lanka," "Not a Common Man," and "This is Not an Exit," which allows listeners to emphasize with the character with passing infrequency. His rendition of "I Am Back" could be more emphatic if he let loose and amped up the power in his vocals. Cassandra Compton's Jean is richly sung, and her evocative alto shines of "A Girl Before." Lucie Jones's solo on "In the Air Tonight" is exceptionally haunting, and she ensures her solos on "True Faith" (Gillian Gilbert, Stephen Hague, Peter Hook, Stephen Morris, Bernard Sumner) and "Medley: Hardbody / Hardbody Luis" are memorable.

As engaging as American Psycho (Original London Cast Recording) is, it is not an accurate representation of how the show currently exists on Broadway. There have been lyrical rewrites, some songs have been reorchestrated, "Oh Sri Lanka" and "Hardbody Luis" have been removed, "Selling Out" is now present in the show, and the album is missing all of the reprises present in the Broadway production. While not drastically altered, there are certainly enough changes in the presentation of the music in American Psycho to justify a Broadway cast recording. Having recently seen the show, I can only hope that we'll soon be able to enjoy both casts in cast album form.

Concord Music Group release American Psycho (Original London Cast Recording) on March 24, 2016. It can be purchased from iTunes, Amazon, and elsewhere music is sold. Tickets for the Broadway production of American Psycho are currently on sale through September 25, 2016. For more information and tickets, please visit http://americanpsychothemusical.com.

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From This Author David Clarke

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