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John Carpenter: Lost Themes II – Album Review

15 April, 2016 — by Matt Owen0

It’s always going to be difficult to review a John Carpenter album, as it will undoubtedly have the creeping, thumping spectre of his astounding 80s cinematic catalogue hanging over it, and Lost Themes II is no different. It’s impossible to hear those familiar dirty synths fire up without picturing Kurt Russell in an eye-patch.

John Carpenter Lost Themes II

Carpenter seems to know this as well, so it’s a credit to the man that he can make such familiar flirtations seem so refreshing and bold. What’s particularly interesting here is that Carpenter has some live gigs coming up, and that seems to be reflected on the album. While the crack-addicted-tubular-bells keyboards are still very much the stars of the show, there’s some thumping guitar chords and pounding drums here that give the whole thing a more bombastic live-gig sound, which makes me very excited to get down the front as soon as this baby hits the stage.

There are some familiar tics on here. Let’s face it, it’s called Lost Themes for a reason. And track titles like ‘Persia Rising’ and ‘Virtual Survivor’ do their best to conjure up scenes and characters from 80s action flicks even before you’ve heard the actual music. This works well though – the latter track in particular has a banging riff to start it off that just makes you want to stalk around an abandoned airport with a lasergun. It’s perfectly designed to be very, very Escape from New York, and it succeeds magnificently.

It’s actually interesting to play ‘spot the thematic message’ here. Bonus track ‘Real Xeno’ for example, has elements of They Live, but also shades of film-school “central character is actually the alien, isolated by modern society” essays lurking in its meandering basslines.


Carpenter clearly isn’t afraid to embrace his heritage here, with ‘Bela Legosi’ a particularly wry take on horror, full of gothic chords that conjure up images of dry ice pouring down staircases in haunted castles.

It’s a surprisingly effective beast, but stays within tighter parameters than its predecessor Lost Themes. There’s nothing quite as out there and meandering as ‘Obsidian’, or anything that demands your presence on the dance floor, but there’s a whole lot of frantic bass and ‘riding around in a car at night’ stuff here that is eminently re-listenable, with plenty of humour and pathos balancing out the sheer bad-assery of the louder tracks.

Not the finest of Carpenter’s soundtrack work, but a very cool round-up that reminds you of all his greatest hits without being derivative. Go check it out on Spotify, then purchase a thick, heavy double gatefold vinyl version at one of the gigs. 4/5

Also check out John Carpenter performing Escape From New York live in the studio.

John Carpenter - Lost Themes II

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