The Venture Bros., The Music of JG Thirlwell

Published on May 30th, 2009 in: Cartoons, Current Faves, Issues, Music, Music Reviews, Reviews, Soundtracks and Scores |

By Megashaun

Cartoons are typically not known for their musical scores. In fact, for many that I watched growing up, the music was often more of an afterthought (outside of the main title theme, that is). Incidental music in The Transformers, for instance, was so generic and overused that the show even shared many of its compositions (if they could be called that) with its counterpart half-hour Hasbro commercial, G.I. Joe.

With cartoons becoming an entertainment medium with broader appeal in terms of age demographic, it’s only natural that some of them have ended up having a more sophisticated approach to production, and their music is certainly not immune to this. The Venture Bros. is a cartoon that I’ve been a fan of since watching it for the first time three years ago, and although it has a huge fan following, its popularity is significantly less than the mass appeal of stupid cartoons like the ones Seth MacFarlane is responsible for.


The Venture Bros. is one of the best-animated shows I’ve ever seen, and I count myself fortunate to have been introduced to it. The main characters are constantly being developed further, the situations they find themselves in get more absurd, and the attachment to them grows with each episode. Strangely enough, the only thing I knew about the show prior to watching it was that JG Thirlwell did the music for it. I had no idea what the show could have been about and, as I held the DVD set of the first season, I could only imagine that it was a crazy action-packed show.

This was a prediction that was smashed rather quickly, as there was much more to appreciate than just straight-up action. Several factors made it stick out as being not just another Adult Swim show, and the musical score contributed heavily to this.

Rather than short, pithy musical cues, the show’s score is grand and orchestral. It plays a considerable role in the pacing of scenes, transitions, and character introductions. But as perfectly as Thirlwell’s work suits The Venture Bros., it is difficult to pay attention solely to it when it’s combined with the rest of the show. Fans of Thirlwell (whose work also includes releases under the names Foetus and Steroid Maximus, as well as several others) have been dying to get their hands on an official soundtrack for The Venture Bros. ever since the show debuted. Now, thanks to the power of Internet shopping, they can.

The Venture Bros., The Music of JG Thirlwell is an assortment of 20 compositions, and while it is by no means an exhaustive collection of Thirlwell’s work on the show, it does include much longer versions of a lot of the pieces used throughout the first three seasons. Most importantly, however, now we can finally hear this music without the rest of that pesky show distracting us. Despite this, it’s still hard to listen to the over-the-top fanfare of “Assclamp!” without picturing Brock Samson beating the crap out of The Monarch’s henchmen.

Yet this doesn’t mean the music doesn’t stand on its own merit. With the expanded versions of the pieces, we’re getting to hear stuff that wasn’t even in the show to begin with. It’s one thing to hear the music while watching the show, and it’s quite another to sit down with headphones on to fully appreciate the album from start to finish. The compositions flow well into one another and, although they’re typically upbeat and lively, there’s still a lot of variation in both mood and intensity. On its own, it’s easier to single out specific instruments and then truly realize just how much is going on in any given piece.

Once you do this, taking another step back to remember that this music is actually from a cartoon is a mind-blowing thought. As if that’s not enough, consider the noise pollution that passes as the majority of popular music these days. Furthermore, The Venture Bros., The Music of JG Thirlwell is actually more action-packed than the show it was composed for! Listening to the score on its own is a good way to not only appreciate it, but also marvel at how well it works in the show . . . once you go back and watch a few episodes again.

The omission of some of the shorter character themes and fanfares is understandable; had those been included, the album would behave less like its own work and more like a clumsy hodgepodge of tracks assembled with no forethought as to how it would all fit together, especially since many of the themes are only seconds long and would severely disrupt the flow of the album. Contrarily, we’ll still have people lamenting the exclusion of certain pieces, so to them I offer this comforting thought: There’s a little “Vol. 01” in the corner of the album art, which leaves open the possibility of subsequent editions.

The Venture Bros., The Music Of JG Thirlwell is available on the Shoppe and can be shipped to all international destinations.


JG Thirlwell’s Best Of 2008 List, Popshifter January/February 2009 issue

Crushing The Mold: An Interview With JG Thirlwell, Popshifter March/April 2008 issue

3 Responses to “The Venture Bros., The Music of JG Thirlwell”

  1. Reay:
    June 9th, 2009 at 2:28 pm

    Nice review, good sir. Reminds me I have to borrow a lot of stuff from you. 🙂

  2. Popshifter » NYC Foetus DVD:
    July 30th, 2009 at 10:36 pm

    […] The Venture Bros., The Music Of JG Thirlwell, Popshifter May/June 2009 issue […]

  3. Popshifter » We Want To Thank You:
    December 24th, 2009 at 12:54 pm

    […] Thirlwell posted a link to our review of his soundtrack to The Venture Bros. on his […]

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