Steve Jablonsky is a much underused composer. This may be because he is so closely associated with Michael Bay and therefore gets some sort of industry micky taking levelled at him, bu it is nonetheless a fact. His music is always very interesting to listen to because it so smoothly mixes many different cinematic musical staples to create one unique sound. His themes from Transformers showed that he was unafraid to mix traditional fanfare themes with electronica and minimalistic delayed rock instrumentation to create moments that are both massive and ethereal, and in the Pain & Gain score he again brings this style, but with some added flare.
The opening tracks are very much a warm up. They verge on being non-descript background music, and almost sound like the kind of verse structures Jared Leto would leave on a 30 Seconds To Mars album’s cutting room floor. But they are very easy to take in, and get your mind used to the array of sonic soundscapes that will become much more prevalent, intricate and heart pumping later on. This is none more obvious than in opening track “I’m Big” which lays out the film’s main theme amidst a warm and soothing backdrop.
But when the meat of the score kicks in we are treated to a great mixture of pulsing synth led driving music and in-your-face robotic war horns, that up the ante and the adrenaline to give the score as a whole an exciting feel that kind of tells its own story. It is with these middle tracks such as “I Got Saved” and “I’m Gonna Tell Jesus” that the Jablonsky who scored Transformers becomes much more visible.
But then new elements start creeping in. All of a sudden the soundtrack becomes reminiscent of the electronica infused score for Drive. The volume is held back and the beat is given extra emphasis on tracks like “Supermen”, where the mid section breakdown (around 1:21) can’t fail to raise a smile and have you nodding your head.
As the score progresses the initial themes start to re-appear in bolder fashion and the pace becomes more urgent, but all the while Jablonsky is able to steer the huge sounds in a way that never lets them become all encompassing. In fact it is a testament to the score that it works incredibly well as music to listen to any time of day; whether you are at home working or having a get together it will definitely earn you some ‘cool points’ if you spin this record. The only slight gripe I have is that some tracks seem to drag because of their repetition and use of long sustained synth notes; which I can only assume comes naturally to Jablonsky through his work in computer games (Gears of War, Command and Conquer et al).
The feeling I was left with after listening to this soundtrack, was that I wish Jablonsky could have had a crack at the Pacific Rim score. Obviously his ties to Transformers would have only further embroiled Guillermo Del Toro in his problems with direct Robot film comparisons, but I just feel like Jablonsky has a better grasp of what makes electronic things tick than Ramin Djawadi. And I certainly really enjoyed this album