Cowboy Bebop - O.S.T. 1
Ever Anime, 1998
REVIEW BY: Sean McCarthy
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 06/26/2003
The best music has the power to transport you.
In the case of the music of the anime series Cowboy Bebop, the listener is transported to a world where Charlie Parker freely co-exists with heavy metal and raging techno amidst a backdrop of seedy pickpockets, loner bounty hunters, strong scotch and cigarette smoke. This is not your dorky little brother's anime.
When you mention the term "anime soundtrack," images of blipping video game music may come to mind. But Cowboy Bebop is not your typical anime series. And producer Yoko Kanno wants to expand the limits of what a soundtrack can do. Especially a soundtrack for a television show.
Cowboy Bebop,-O.S.T. 1 borrows heavily from musical and film-noir styles, dating back to the 1920s. The soundtrack, the majority of it performed by The Seatbelts, contains elements of jump-blues, morose jazz, pulsating techno and, of course, bebop. The majority of the tunes on O.S.T. 1 infuse jazz with blues. Tracks like "Spokey Dokey," and "Digging My Potato" may sound ridiculous, but the careful use of spacing and pauses in the song structures show a maturity not found on most contemporary jazz recordings.
Appropriately enough, the soundtrack starts off with "Tank!," the theme that is played during most Cowboy Bebop episodes, or, as the creators prefer to call them, "sessions." Though it is for an animated series, "Tank!" easily ranks up with in the "top 10 most memorable theme songs" for a television show. Horns blast you with a syncopated beat, and a beat-poet hipster croons, "Ok, 3..2..1..let's jam."
Jazz is the predominant genre throughout O.S.T.-1. In almost every song, it is infused with other genres, such as blues and rock. "Rush" incorporates violin orchestration into a tight horn section. And "Spokey Dokey," perhaps the most vivid track on the soundtrack, has a mean harmonica solo that is so intimate, you hear Ryuichiro Senoo take an intense breath during his harmonica solo.
The only major weak track on the soundtrack is the song "Rain." It's probably the most straightforward rock song on the album, almost qualifying it as power ballad status. It's a decent enough track, but there are superior versions of the song you can find elsewhere.
The Seatbelts, the primary musicians throughout the entire Cowboy Bebop series, are hyped as a futuristic band who achieved popularity in 2048. The band prided itself in its contradictions: peace and anarchy, hard and soft. One may dismiss a band for creating such a fictional biography as well as being on an anime soundtrack, but The Seatbelts are as capable of rocking the house as any blues, rock or indie band out there today. (Heyah, if a certain band can dress up as peppermint candy and still achieve critical acclaim, The Seatbelts are certainly allowed some creative liberties.)
The Cowboy Bebop soundtrack series contains two other discs, No Disc and Blue. O.S.T.-1 is arguably the best primer for the series. The soundtrack has helped introduce jazz and blues to an audience who would have likely never given the genres a chance. It may be blues or jazz-lite, but it's authentic nonetheless. It's an utterly addictive sound that, due to its influences, you don't feel guilty indulging in.