I blame Michael Giacchino. Those glorious LOST days where we’d get a full television score released once a year! It was pretty much unheard of, but I soon got used to it. That was how it should always have been. But it’s still a relatively rare occurrence, even on shows where you’d expect it. I mean, a soundtrack and a t-shirt are solid bets where action figures aren’t involved. Sometimes all we want is to bring a score home, but they don’t materialise often enough. Or when they do it’s in abbreviated form. The Clone Wars unfortunately didn’t get the individual season treatment (although the collected series compilation is magnificent), so there was no reason to expect Star Wars Rebels to go against trend. Glad to say it did though. The old ‘wait until the third season launches and drop scores for seasons one and two’ ploy was in full effect. They tricked us good.
Kevin Kiner was in an interesting position when scoring The Clone Wars. On one hand he had the freedom to light out for his own musical territories in a galaxy far, far away. On the other there was, well, John Williams. A musical presence unlike any other in motion picture history (let’s face it, there’s John Williams, Bernard Herrmann and everybody else). The constraining factor was therefore making it sound like Star Wars without too much reliance on John Williams’s iconic themes. ‘To be used sparingly’ might have been a handwritten note from George Lucas on Kevin’s fridge. So how exactly do you make a piece of Star Wars be Star Wars without John Williams? That’s a question that Michael Giacchino will be attempting to answer with Rogue One (and answer it he will) and is one that Kevin Kiner already answered during the course of TCW.
With Rebels, Kiner has been able to build upon his own contributions to Star Wars music. Because the Rebels timeline pushes up against A New Hope, it makes sense to freely reference John Williams this time around. Kiner does so with such confidence and freedom that he completely owns the material. The Star Wars Rebels Season One Soundtrack is a masterclass in integrating original, powerful cues with re-appropriations of the familiar. From the ‘Rebels Theme’ on, Kiner breathes fresh life into classic themes and delivers the connective tissue to his own TCW work.
‘Ezra’s Theme’ glides and shimmers with the Force, aloneness giving way to the potential of a journey. The brassy high adventure of ‘Storm the Ship’ is about as thrilling as Star Wars music gets (hey, it can get pretty darn thrilling!). There is darkness too. ‘The Inquisitor’ is more moodily menacing than a group of Welsh cultists outside your window in winter. The ‘Inquisitor Duel’ is the action cue lovechild of Empire Strikes Back and Revenge of the Sith — it’s like Hoth and Mustafar rolled into a single holiday. “Am I hot? Am I cold? I just don’t know!”
There are delightful surprises concerning old friends. ‘Lando and the Rebels’ has the perfect amount of humour, swagger and rakishness. In a super bold move, ‘Glory of the Empire’ proves that the ‘Imperial March’ is actually listened to in-universe! The convincing bluster completely sells the fourth wall breaking.
Star Wars Rebels hit the streets of Lothal running and earned its significant place within Star Wars canon over the course of the first season. Kevin Kiner’s score is an unforgettable part of that success. Like Hera flying the Ghost, Kiner makes the show soar.
I’ll be back to talk about the season two soundtrack soon. Meanwhile, both scores are available to buy now as digital downloads. Go get ‘em!