This is the type of $3 album that deserves at least an extra zero on its price tag.
Oh, The Jupiter Menace Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, what’s a girl like you doing in a place like this? Seriously, this is the type of $3 album that deserves at least an extra zero on its price tag, and probably would have it if it were any rarer. I mean, if epic synth compositions like these were somehow lost or in a limited edition, like if the movie bombed so bad that the soundtrack was pulled from the shelves or never came out in the first place, you’d be reading about a forgotten treasure rescued from the depths of obscurity by some boutique label issuing a remastered edition complete with gatefold cover and bonus LP of previously unheard Larry Fast demo recordings. Instead, you’re reading about a dusty cut-out I pulled from a discount bin in suburban New Jersey.
Rather than give you a full rundown of the film’s plot, I’ll simply defer to a VHS review by The Internet is in America and a four-minute clip from Everything Is Terrible! Suffice it to say that the movie looks like a wonderful piece of shit. The brief bits of score you can hear in that video don’t do the soundtrack justice. Larry Fast, the electronic composer behind Synergy, is no slouch when it comes to synth playing and arrangements, having worked with prog rock royalty like Nektar and Peter Gabriel and also racking up an extensive solo discography. So, although The Jupiter Menace does contain some of the clichéd “space sounds” you’d expect to hear based on the cover art, it comes across more like an evil John Williams work than something you’d hear on a class field trip to the planetarium.
The laser synths of 52-second opening track “The Alignment” quickly give way to intense tribal drum programming on “Alien Earth” – look, you’re just going to have to bear with these song titles, OK – which is probably as close as you’ll find to a synthesis of electro and punk. From there, we’re treated to some compelling doomsday fare leading up to the title sequence, “Rampage of the Elements/The Jupiter Menace,” before the music comes back down to Earth on “Pueblo Bonito.” The album’s back cover tells us that “The Prophecy – The Prophecy Fulfilled/Warriors,” is from Synergy’s Electronic Realizations for Rock Orchestra, which, despite being seven years older than this soundtrack, fits right in. While the pre-MIDI sequencing is much less layered than the newer materials, it conveys the same kind of mad-science-experiment mood.
Side B is truly more of a soundtrack than an original score, as four of its seven songs are either excerpted or taken entirely from previous Synergy releases. Nonetheless, as producer, Fast kept the album from devolving into full-on light show music. According to his own words, by the time he started working on Sequencer (the Electronic Realizations follow-up which is excerpted on “The Plunge/Earthquake Simulation”) he’d retired the mellotron in favor of a Moog, which allowed chord work to enter the picture. In the soundtrack’s context, this provides a seamless back-and-forth between arcade-room-ready anthems and the dramatic pacing of film score composition. It even feels like the latter may have borrowed a bit from the former in this case, as the last original work on Side B, “The Final Alignment,” could be heard as an orchestrated refinement of the Polymoog mayhem that is the film’s “Closing Theme,” “Trellis” from the 1978 Synergy album Cords.
As far as space operas go, you can keep your imitation-lo-fi recording of imaginary soundtracks. I prefer the real deal. I’ll get mine from the bargain bin, thank you much.