Spinema Issue 72: LOST THEMES IV: NOIR – John Carpenter Family Band Goes Darker (and Heavier!)

Lend an ear to SPINEMA: a column exploring all movie music, music related to movies, and movies related to music. Be they film scores on vinyl, documentaries on legendary musicians, or albums of original songs by horror directors, all shall be reviewed here. Batten down your headphones, because shit’s about to sound cinematic.

The Horror Master has returned with another original album of spooky bangers. This time, Carp And The Boys (Cody Carpenter and Daniel Davies) are stretching their synth-and-guitar sound into slightly new territory: Film Noir. It’s an intriguing experiment; intentionally pushing the listener to remove the cinematic sounds of this band from the purely horrific, to another genre of dark tales told. That’s a challenge. The experiment may not exactly have been a success, but… does it matter?

We’ll revisit that notion later.

Here is where the record definitely succeeds: It fuckin’ rips. The group’s fascination with classic low-budget crime dramas proves a sturdy launching point for sonic evolution. There is plenty of material here that anyone following the trio’s nearly ten-year output will find perfectly familiar, though. This is still very much a group centered around Carpenter’s whole thing, only bigger and… nastier. As observed on LTIII, Daniel Davies’ guitar continues to shine through as the focal point and the driving force of their sound. This time around, certain tracks like LAST RITES offer a heavy dose of metal. Chugging guitars, and big drums (percussion unlike anything heard on the previous three albums) go furiously hard on multiple tracks. One could almost picture the likes of Lars Ulrich pounding out the driving tempos.

Our guys could easily have rested on their musical laurels and fans would largely have been satisfied by record after record of minimalist synth melodies, sparse percussive elements, and peppered-in guitar textures. One could argue that is the practice with their ANTHOLOGY series (now in two volumes!). Re-recording Carpenter’s movie music makes for a nice little victory lap and produces a little revenue without having to tackle any writer’s block. LTIV, however, is proof they won’t be satisfied by neither literally playing the hits, nor writing new material that sounds just like the hits. This is an exciting new crop of songs pushed just enough into unfamiliar territory, and if the third one felt a little tired, NOIR is certainly wide awake.

That being said, the new territory isn’t too far away. Listener’s may find it difficult to divorce the Carpenter signature sound from horror and sci-fi imagery of the 70s and 80s. If, for instance, a filmmaker were to make some new noir picture with this album’s music as the score, it would feel like a bold and even ironic statement. The big rock sounds don’t do much to call up the seedy, black-and-white P.I. tales, and even in the quieter moments, one may find it easier to picture the attempted evasion of a masked killer than shadowy femme fatales or men in fedoras cracking wise at gunpoint.


This album rocks, and the visualization “problem” has already been explored in a rad music video for MY NAME IS DEATH directed by Ambar Navarro. The sound of this record and the style of the movie genre complement each other quite graciously, even if the pairing is a bit uncanny. The band has now completed a 4th album of creative and memorable compositions, and one can only hope they continue with this momentum as long as possible. Get on it!


Noir marks yet another stellar performance by the record label, Sacred Bones. Their stuff always looks great, and they spare no creativity on these John Carpenter releases. As is apparently tradition, they are offering LTIV up in multiple variants (of course, this would seem to be tradition at every label dabbling in vinyl these days), and there are a couple fun choices, including cassette and compact disc. I opted for the clear with red splatter version in a silver foil stamped jacket. This also includes a 24×36 fold out poster of the boys, and a rather impressive screen-printed bonus 7-inch record (33 1/3 speed). The ultra-spooky “Black Cathedral” can only be heard on these bonus discs. For the John Carpenter obsessive, Sacred Bones offers a super exclusive version for the record club. From the website:

Sacred Bones Record Society version: Edition of 150 copies, pressed on Black and White Splatter on Clear vinyl w/ Screen Printed 7″ and a Silver Foil Stamped Jacket, in an exclusive wrap around sleeve, wax sealed, hand-numbered and an exclusive lipstick USB stick with the music video for “My Name Is Death” available by mail-order only.

Pretty impressive shit. Not so impressive: the quality control. Yes, this is another frustrating Sacred Bones release. The music sounds wonderful. Clearly, the due diligence was done to ensure a properly engineered vinyl album, but the pressings continue to disappoint. Just like on LTIII, even after a solid clean, the same loud pops can be heard at the exact same time… every time. That’s a sure sign of a defect somewhere between the stamper and my copy. It’s a damn shame given the excellence on display in every other aspect of these products. I’ve been on this ride from the beginning, so I don’t plan on getting off anytime soon, but it would be so exciting if Sacred Bones could jump that last hurdle. Regardless, I remain overjoyed to collect a favorite director’s original work. Great artists making great art – is there anything better on this planet?

Previous post IN A VIOLENT NATURE is a Masterful Exercise in the Slasher Sub-genre 
Next post Hunter and Prey: A Chat with Two of the Leads of IN A VIOLENT NATURE (Mild Spoilers)