Netflix's Sturgill Simpson Presents Sound & Fury Review
Netflix continued its successful dip into captivating anime with this impossible blend of Mad Max, Samurai and Country Rock music.Netflix may have built a solid cache of decent original horror, sci-fi and crime dramas - at least on the series front, with shows like Stranger Things, Altered Carbon or Mindhunter - but it has also been heavily investing in original animations too, with some very interesting results, including the recent Love, Death & Robots, which offered 18 bite-sized standalone animated tales that were diverse enough to offer something for almost everybody.
Its latest animated release is basically a 41-minute music video, crafted specifically to accompany the equally diverse tracks from the latest album from Alternative Country Rock artist, Sturgill Simpson, the similarly titled Sound & Fury. There's no dialogue here (perhaps a brief radio snippet at the end) and no sound effects, just pure Sturgill Simpson, cut to a series of disparate but loosely cohesive tales that will likely prove visually - and aurally - majestic if watched suitably under the influence on a late Friday night.
It will likely prove visually - and aurally - majestic if watched suitably under the influence on a late Friday nightIf you're looking for a story, then you can maybe just about scratch something together across the 'main' narrative, which appears to concern equal parts samurai revenge, Mad Max road wars, and post-apocalyptic insanity. There are a couple of nasty bad guys who could easily be Batman villains - particularly peddling Joker-like purple toxic gas - a samurai warrior looking to avenge his lost wife and daughter, and a mean-ass vigilante in a souped-up futuristic equivalent to the fabled Last of the V8 Interceptors. Throw in some samurai robot Transformers, munitions galore, and an inexplicable ensemble dance routine - as well as a few seemingly connected stories from the same broad post-apocalyptic landscape - and you have a vague idea of what Sound & Fury is all about. And, even after watching it, vague is probably the best it's going to ever get.
Undoubtedly, this is an acquired taste, both in terms of alternative Country "sound" and visual "fury". Even the fact that there's not only zero dialogue but also zero effects will be a challenge for some, leaving the potential for utter bombast completely negated. Sturgill Simpson is likely an enigma even for fans, who will likely be almost as surprised by the 'next' album he comes out with as anybody coming fresh to the artist. Never known for sticking to the program, Sound & Fury is as unusual as his last few albums have been from each other, galloping off in the direction of purely patriotic Country & Western honky-tonk, only curiously infused by a gradually invasive backing vibe that seems eminently informed by Daft Punk's album Discovery (which was, ironically, perfect material for its own extended musical animation - Interstellar 5555). Sound & Fury will initially grate, then maybe confuse, then hopefully grow on some until it becomes the strangest and most surprisingly apt backing to the weirdest visuals this side of Liquid TV's Aeon Flux. Either that or you'll utterly hate it.
Sound & Fury will grate, confuse, then grow on some until it becomes the most surprisingly apt backing to the weirdest visuals this side of Liquid TV's Aeon Flux. Either that or you'll utterly hate it.
Indeed, whilst the more recent comparison in both style and format is the animated Matrix series, The Animatrix, which offered a similar collection of somewhat disparate tales into that other universe, with only a couple of them actually directly connected to one another, Sound & Fury is more directly comparable to the early Aeon Flux shorts on MTV's Liquid TV. Almost devoid of dialogue (although they did have effects), the shorts were mind-melting insanity (the full-length series arguably even more so) which coloured in a world both strikingly and obliquely, perpetually leaving you craving more. Sound & Fury similarly offers a glimpse into a strange post-apocalyptic futurescape - but never a comprehensive, or even really cohesive, one - and is similarly equal parts captivating and equal parts frustratingly disjointed. But possibly erring more on the latter, even if the mercifully short 41 minute runtime is both a blessing and curse. Even fans might find that some effects noises could have made all the difference here, but there will be plenty who believe that this is an utterly unsalvageable mess. Either way, it's probably better enjoyed distinctly under the influence. Then perhaps you can simply go along for the stunning visuals of clinical planetary bombardment and V8 love and let the whole insane Alternative Country Rock ride just wash over you.
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