Danger Mouse & Daniele Luppi – Rome

written by: June 6, 2011
Release Date: May 16, 2011


What hasn’t Danger Mouse done? He mashed up The Black Album with The White Album. He is one half of Gnarls Barkley. He’s produced albums of such magnitude as Modern Guilt, Demon Days and Brothers. Now he and composer Daniele Luppi have recorded an original work styled like a movie score, featuring Jack White and Norah Jones, called Rome. If anything, its eccentric creators unveil this is an awesome set of ‘staches, and a taste for vintage Italian soundtracks.

Danger Mouse (alias of Brian Jones Burton) and Luppi spent five years recording Rome in its namesake, trying to emulate sounds of the American Western. Halfway through the process, they enlisted Jack and Norah as leads; White playing the damaged, self-destructive type to Norah’s everygirl and savior. “I’m already fighting me, so what’s another one?” White bleats on, “Two Against One.” The love story between the singers is at best loose, better told through music than words. The soundtrack to a nonexistent film is nothing new, where Rome succeeds is as a thing of its own, begging the imagination to fill in the details.

It’s hard to say what makes a song sound like it’s “made for the screen,” but in the case of the album it’s mostly that the lyric-less songs incant film scenes. Whether you agree to take each for its title is one thing, but almost none of the tracks go beyond their immediate association. That’s ok though—it doesn’t have to be taken as a film soundtrack to be appreciated. The Mouse is a self-proclaimed auteur; building a distinctive, unified sound with the dramatic arch of a film has informed much of his canon—an artist that convinces you he should’ve been born in the ’60s. Luppi himself is no stranger to scoring; his work has appeared in Hell Ride, Under the Tuscan Sun and 2009’s Nine.

One of Jones’ contributions, “Black,” a gorgeous, swelling organ ballad has been given the star treatment. The music video, “3 Dreams of Black,” was created using WebGL, through movements of their mouse users can actually control what happens in the dreamscape. Jones’ misty vocals have that place-you-can’t-go-back, sunset melancholy, gilding the song in dramatic weight. There are a lot of recurring motifs in the album; the chorus of “Rome” is preeminent.

Sweeping strings and pentatonic “Ahs” and “Ohs” give Rome its epic, gloomy Western feel. Guitars and vibraphones accent and highlight its rough-ridden edges.

Sometimes brusque, it can also be pretty. A song as ambitiously titled as “The World,” manages to evoke a dream of the blue planet. Peruse the track list—many of the songs are less than a minute long and almost all of them contain a strong implication of scene; any album—not just a soundtrack—will stir images in the mind’s eye.

It sounds dated. If any of these were soundtracks to movie it would be a melodrama or something out of the 1960s. In the case of this album, it’s both. Rome is at times loungy and yet inextricably Spaghetti—a hallmark of the era. It’s romantic but genuine, sweet but transient. Thank Luppi for proffering authenticity; many of the studio musicians who played on the tracks are 70/80 year olds who recorded with Mancini and the greats.

Danger Mouse & Daniele Luppi – Rome Tracklist:

  1. “Theme of ‘Rome'”
  2. “The Rose With The Broken Neck (feat. Jack White)”
  3. “Morning Fog (Interlude)”
  4. “Season’s Trees (feat. Norah Jones)”
  5. “Her Hollow Ways (Interlude)”
  6. “Roman Blue”
  7. “Two Against One (feat. Jack White)”
  8. “The Gambling Priest”
  9. “The World (Interlude)”
  10. “Black (feat. Norah Jones)”
  11. “The Matador Has Fallen”
  12. “Morning Fog”
  13. “Problem Queen (feat. Norah Jones)”
  14. “Her Hollow Ways”
  15. “The World (feat. Jack White)”