An analysis of the Wyld Stallyns music featured in Face the Music
I am forever in love with the Wyld Stallyns' music that was featured in Bill and Ted: Face the Music, not only because 'That Which Binds Us Through Time: The Chemical, Physical, and Biological Nature of Love; an Exploration of the Meaning of Meaning, Part 1' and 'Face the Music' are really good songs, but because of what they say about the conflict of the film. It feels so obvious to me that the creators involved with this movie had a genuine love for the franchise and for the story being told, and I love that you can hear that in how well the music works in conjunction with the plot of the film.
The first song that Wyld Stallyns plays in Face the Music is the song that Bill and Ted attempt to debut at the wedding - 'That Which Binds Us Through Time'. In the film, the song gets cut short by an irate Chief Logan, but there is blessedly a full version available on the soundtrack album. 'That Which Binds Us Through Time' is a song that utilizes a lot of instruments and a lot of looping - several segments of the song are essentially repeated chunks of melody and rhythm played by separate instruments that have been layered and relayered over each other. There are distinct repetitions in the Theremin, the Trumpet, the Bagpipes, the Flute, and in the Guitar throughout the song - the song as a whole has several little arcs that it runs through, but everything in them seems to return back to the same loops.
Additionally, there's a very strained sound to the song. It sounds like it's slogging through the course of its run time, something heavy and weighted in the way it progresses. It's as if the song is desperate to move itself forward, but there's something weighing it down that's forcing it to work harder and harder just to reach its end. The repetition of the song is part of this, but even in segments of the song that are wholly unique, this mood persists throughout it. It's a very interesting quality for the song to have, because there's such an energy to it - it isn't slow or low in pitch, but there's still something about it that seems to communicate that weight, even in moments where the loudest sounds are a bright flute and harpsichord accompaniment. I think this is due to the fact that the song doesn't seem to have a true climax that would work to burst the sense of anticipation that persists throughout the length of the song - a lot of build up with no Release to break it apart.
All of this works extremely well to express the pressure that Bill and Ted feel as they work on writing new songs. They've been writing songs with nothing but increasing desperation over the course of twenty-five years, and every new song that they create is recieved as a resounding failure and seems to bring them no closer to their supposed destiny of 'Uniting the World'. It's weighing on them, and that strain has started to bleed through into their music - all build up with no release, the tension can't go anywhere because Bill and Ted still have to carry it.
I find it even more interesting the way the instruments seem to have been chosen for this song. From the beginning it was clear that Bill and Ted did not so much have an appreciation of a specific genre of music as they do a particular appreciation of the Guitar as an instrument. Eddie Van Halen, Iron Maiden, Megadeath, Bon Jovi, Blue Oyster Cult, Poison, etc. - these bands and their songs that are mentioned over the course of the first two movies don't necessarily make music that fits neatly into the same genre, but they do all feature the guitar very heavily in a variety of solos. The first thing we see Bill and Ted doing at the beginning of Excellent Adventure is playing their guitars, and the first thing we see them doing at the beginning of Bogus Journey is playing their guitars, and the last thing we see them do in Excellent Adventure is play their guitars, and the last thing we see them do at the end of Bogus Journey is play their guitars.
But in Face the Music, during this first musical scene, Bill and Ted don't even get a chance to pull out their guitars for this song before they're cut off and essentially thrown off stage. In the full version of the song, the guitar does eventually feature, but I think the way it's included only helps to underline the stress Bill and Ted are feeling that this song embodies. A couple different segments of the song include guitar tracks, but it's never quite the primary focus, instead it's used as more of an undercurrent beneath some of the primary looping instruments - like the theremin and the trumpet. Yet there are moments where the guitar almost feels as if it's desperate to be heard, like at around the 1:35 mark. There's a strain in the sound of its playing, and in the way the bagpipes and theremin and heavy drums seem to smother it. The sound is there, but lost. Struggling to drag itself out of the din and into the spotlight, but failing (just like Bill and Ted are struggling to fulfil their musical destiny and seemingly continuing to fail).
Not only does this say something about where Bill and Ted are emotionally in regards to their music, but it also says something about the state of the band as a whole. Despite the fact that Rufus says the Princesses are also members of the band in Excellent Adventure, and all of the new members that were added in Bogus Journy - like Death and Station - by Face the Music, Bill and Ted are the only members left. That's why 'That Which Binds Us Through Time' features looping repetitions of instruments so heavily - because they don't have a band behind them anymore; it's just the two of them, and there's only so much they can do on their own. The music is technically extremely well done - it's obvious that Bill and Ted are immensely talented at the variety of instruments that they employ in the song, but the reduction in members is why those instruments have to be used the way they are. Bill and Ted have to rely on loops to help pad out the song - to extend it and make sure it sounds like more than just two dudes with a couple of instruments, because they can't rely on any bandmates to help them perform or help them write. That's another reason why their endless anticipation and pressure bleeds so thoroughly into this song, because there's no one around to bear that burden with them anymore, and so there's nothing else contributed to the sound but the years of desperation that Bill and Ted have put into it.
The song 'Face the Music' is no less impressive - both from a musical standpoint and a storytelling one. I'll only be focusing on Bill and Ted's solo towards the end of the song rather than the overall composition of it - since Billie and Thea are the ones who put the song's composition together, not Bill and Ted themselves. Still, even just that segment of the song is such a beautific climax both for the song and for Bill and Ted themselves, and I think the fact that they went back to guitar has a lot to do with it.
Like I said before, more than anything, Bill and Ted are guitarists. When they were still planning Wyld Stallyns back in high school, they have a piano and a drumset in the garage with them, but they don't ever seem to play them. Despite the fact that it takes them years to properly learn how to play the guitar, they still love to play and perform in that garage together just becuase it's fun. They don't necessarily care what they sound like, what kind of music they make, the act of playing alone is what delights them above all else. We see this in their attempts at filming a music video in Excellent Adventure, in the way they jam with Rufus at the end of that movie, and also in their audition at the beginning of Bogus Journey. The first shot we see of Bill and Ted in every single movie is them with their guitars (not counting the reveal of Evil Robot Bill and Ted in Bogus Journey - the real Bill and Ted are first seen in their Battle of the Bands audition), but in Face the Music their present selves don't get a chance to play it even once before MP46.
As stated in the breakdown of 'That Which Binds Us Through Time', by this point in their lives, Bill and Ted are highly skilled at a variety of instruments, so during 'Face the Music', Billie and Thea could have handed their dads any instrument, and I'd bet they'd be able to play it. After all, Jimi Hendrix is there on stage with them - one of the most influential electric guitarists of all time, described as "arguably the greatest instrumentalist in the history of rock music." - they would have absolutely had the guitar set and covered for this song. Jo and Liz are given a keytar and a violin, neither of which lines up with the instruments we saw them play in the first two films, so Billie and Thea clearly don't feel beholden to their parents' traditional instruments of choice and have a desire to add other instruments into the song they're building. But they still give Bill and Ted guitars, because they know their dads, and know what instrument is their favorite above all else.
(As more of a side note, I find it equally significant that Billie and Thea were the only ones who considered the fact that Bill and Ted had been alone in the band for years. When the Great Leader brings Bill and Ted to the future, she talks about Preston/Logan And The Band and claims she gave them 'everything they needed' to write the song in the timeframe she gave them, but the first thing Billie and Thea say to Kellye is that their dads are 'all alone' and that they want to help support them by bringing them new band members, because they've only had each other for the longest time, and the girls can tell that's impacting their ability to write.)
Billie and Thea give Bill and Ted guitars, and for the first time in who Knows how long, Bill and Ted get a chance to play music with other people again. You can see how excited this makes them before they even start to play - it's obvious that part of this enthusiasm is how impressed they are by Billie and Thea's skill in building up the composition, but there's an undoubted anticipation that starts to build the moment they're handed their guitars. Ted hops all over the stage to give high fives to his family, because they're all up there with him for the first time in a long time! And I love the little grins and impressed nods that Jimi Hendrix and Bill exchange with one another - because there's simply no way that Billie and Thea were the only Hendrix fans in the family, Bill and Ted absolutely were too, and to get that look and nod of approval from The Jimi Hendrix himself, dude, no Wonder Bill's face scrunches up so excitedly!
And because the songwriting and the sound isn't wholly resting on Bill and Ted's shoulders, they get a chance to finally have some fun with the music. During the film's presentation of 'That Which Binds Us Through Time' during the wedding, Bill and Ted don't smile before Or during their performance because tehy're so concentrated on getting everything done. They don't have the freedom to relax during the work because the work is balanced so precariously between them - every moment they're not playing is a moment the song is disrupted, and they need to switch between instruments as quickly and effeciently as possible to prevent that from happening, there's no room for mistakes or for going even slightly off track. In 'Face the Music', however, it's not just them anymore! They have the space to bounce around the stage, to play with each other (in a more classical sense, not just an instrumental one), and play their guitars with proper feel, because there's no longer a pressure to play each part so precisely. 'Face the Music' is not a pre-written song, it's something improvisational that everyone is playing by ear together - there are no rails that need to be clung to so desperately anymore.
So the song has a playful personality because Bill and Ted finally have the breathing room to Give that to it, and the tension that hung over 'That Which Binds Us Through Time' is finally gone because Bill and Ted are finally given that release that they've been working towards all these years. In fact, their solo IS the climax and the release of 'Face the Music' - Bill and Ted are the ones that break the tension! They can play and have fun, work off of each other's improv and the other members of the band, and it can be natural instead of a very carefully planned deliberate attempt and you can Hear all of that enthusiasm and love and joy in the solos themselves. That quick moment shot of the two of them looking over the other's guitar so that they can watch what they're building towards and reflect it in their own playing is So special to me; I love this final scene so much because it's so so clear how much fun they're having.
Tl;dr: Both songs are totally EXCELLENT because Bill and Ted are very good at what they do, but where 'That Which Binds Us Through Time' is a tense and precariously balanced song with no release or relief because Bill and Ted have to handle it alone after years of struggling to write their perfect song, their solos in 'Face the Music' are instead given the breathing room to play and have fun with using a joyful feel in their playing because they're finally able to work with a band instead of just being on their own and have finally managed to fulfil their destinies. AND I love both songs with my whole, whole heart :3c