Let me skip to the end: This is junk, but it’s quality junk, if you see what I mean. Bond is not likely to be included in the pantheon of greats in any genre 30 years on, but that doesn’t make this album any less enjoyable in the here and now.
Whoever had the idea to put together a string quartet of women who look like supermodels/dance-pop tarts/actresses and have them play over programmed beats is some kind of a commercial genius, almost on the same level as whoever came up with those brilliant Queer Eye ads (“Are you miracle workers?” “No ma’am, we’re just gay men”). Reminiscent of disco-classical hits like “A Fifth of Beethoven” and the “Variations” Andrew Lloyd Webber wrote for his cello-playing brother Julian, the music is of value as a curiosity, sometimes bright and shining, if not greatly affecting — though it is, moreso at night. The quartet does play beautifully — notice I do not say their playing is as beautiful as they are, because that would just be cheap — but their album is nevertheless not as rich a listening experience as one would like.
The first cut, “Allegretto,” is immediately recognizable from its use in a diamond commercial, and is the sort of thing that has made some classical music snobs scorn Bond like a self-respecting woman scorns a Miss America pageant. “Too poppy, too poppy,” they mutter, as they switch off the CD and switch on their NPR talk shows (I’m just guessing). The title number is a 007 movie theme just waiting for Atomic Kitten to come in and lay down some vocals for it. Which might not sound like that good of an idea, but it would still be better than Madonna’s.
It’s true, technology takes center stage in front of performance here. But, one suspects while flipping through the CD booklet full of photos of the MTV-ready foursome, that Bond’s talents matter about as much as those aforementioned Kittens. My favorites are Cindy Crawford look-alike Haylie and the leggy blonde viola player, Tania. How many other times am I going to get to write the words “leggy blonde viola player?”
Generally instrumental, the songs are mostly written by outsiders or are covers, with only a few written or co-written by members of the quartet. Of these, “Strange Paradise” is one of the better soft pieces on the album and “Sahara,” by first violin player Haylie Ecker, also impresses.
Getting back to covers — you know what? You haven’t heard “Kashmir” until you’ve heard it played by an all-girl string quartet with bass, guitar, percussion and orchestra over programmed beats — so I’m saying I’ve heard “Kashmir.” “Space” sounds like a Pet Shop Boys remix of a Bing Crosby backing track — which would actually be an ace idea in and of itself.
Speaking of the world’s favorite super-spy, as I was above somewhere, the album ends with a predictable but still fun “bonus” cover of the legendary Monty Norman (cough, John Barry, cough) 007 theme.
In fact, “predictable but still fun” summarizes this album nicely.