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December 2005 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Managing Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

index page/ monthly listings/ December/

League of Gentlemen’s Apocalypse  
Music composed by Joby Talbot
  Available on Silva Screen (SILCD1189)
Running Time: 42:21
Amazon UK

Everything was set. A cult and successful BBC comedy show, The league of Gentlemen’s Apocalype with a huge fan base and tremendous success, realizes its previous cinematic aspiration when densely referring to various popular films with its during its tv-series years, with this transition to the big screen, this year. Directed by Steve Bendelack, the plot for the movie circled around the fictional world of Royston Vasey which was facing apocalypse and the only way to avert disaster was for the nightmarish cast of characters to find a way into the real world and confront their creators. All done with constant changes from the present day Soho to the fictional film world of 17th Century Britain and a bunch of new characters along with the most beloved ones from the original TV series, this dark, gloomy and hilarious adventure was a great success as well.

Coming fresh out of the musical success of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, composer Joby Talbot naturally drifted along and vividly pictured the movie’s madness straight into his grand, orchestral score.

The entire work is based upon a memorable, successful and award-winning – albeit simple - main theme of a D, A and G sharp motif, constantly reinvented, transposed, shifted and re-worked into completely different musical ideas which altogether dominate the score. Strongly noting its first appearance is the viperish orchestral piece “ Apocalypse Theme ”, in a groovy 12 / 8 meter. As far as instruments are concerned, special focus lays on sneaky hi-hat drumming, xylophones and brass, making up the perfect intro for such a score. Ranging renditions of the main theme appear throughout the score, notables being “Leaving for London” where everything gets turned upside down in this groovy remix for jazzy piano and percussion and its wordless, groovy vocals’ rendition  of “Stripped down theme”.

Continuing with the discs’ highlights, we find “Little Brown Fish” and “Herr Lipp unmasked” in the same fashion as the opening cue, with a similar complex, syncopated rhythm and rousing bass ostinato with the first one’s main attraction being the prominent Hermann-esque string work, centered on the beautiful violin lines and endued with piercing brass clusters and dense percussion work. Another element of this work, are the straightforward references to other composers. The dense “Back In Royston Vasey” or “Into The Crypt” could easily be in James Newton Howard’s score for Signs or any other of his suspense / thriller works indeed. Other references include John Williams, in “Hilary Versus The Humunculus” where a frantic metre of 16/ 8ths, along with a jaws-like bass strings’ ostinato become the veil for the familiar brass and woodwinds’ motifs to be laid upon.

On the downside now, we find two cases. First, it’s the fact that there are many short pieces in duration and while featuring some interesting elements, they don’t offer them the time and space needed to be developed, resulting in a rather bitter result. Such examples are “Dr Pea”, a beautiful piece built on a harpsichord basso continuo, woodwinds solos and the whole orchestra on top performing a spectacular theme which unfortunately ends rapidly, “An Humunculus” and “Pig funeral”. Secondly, there’s the necessary evil for this kind of film, plain underscore which serves the picture well indeed but offers nothing on CD as far as listening experience is concerned (“Meteors”, “Herr Lipp In The Attic”, “Storm Over Royston Vasey”).

However, the real gems of this work are placed in the end of it . “It’s a Miracle” surprisingly turns into highly melodic, romantic and at the same time nostalgic and joyful, fronted by string orchestra completed by woodwinds and chimes, all leading into a strong restatement of the main theme by the full orchestra. On top of that we find the spectacular, concluding “End Titles” which easily makes up for the best cue of the entire score. Vividly different from what we heard before comes this final emotional statement, written for piano, woodwinds and soft, sweeping strings. “End Titles” is a really gorgeous piece which is closer to the music Talbot wrote for the very series and one which even matches the quality of any corresponding piece by the great Georges Deleure.

The League of the gentlemen’s apocalypse is a fine work indeed, with special care clearly devoted to it by the composer. Singular elements were added to this work, rendering it as particularly interesting outing. Musical traits such as the loud bass section that dominates the score, with its distinct sound focused on their high frequencies, the beautiful Hermann-esque string lines which add a satisfying dose of elegance and a nostalgic “old-fashioned” feeling to the entire work, the harpsichord basso continuo, performed by Joby Talbot himself, injecting a distinct baroque feeling all along with the brilliant, memorable main theme, attribute a spirit of uniqueness and greatly-missed (for our times) freshness to this work. If it wasn’t for the short duration of several cues, the plain underscore and therefore, the lack of coherency – especially in the middle section of the album, this could be magnificent.

Demetris Christodoulides


Mark Hockley adds:-

For those of you who are familiar with the BBC2 TV series, they will already understand the surreal darkness that goes hand in hand with the quirky humour of The League of Gentlemen. But for newcomers to Royston Vasey (home of the league’s members), they will undoubtedly be caught a little off-guard by the often macabre, bizarre sensibility that makes the series so unique, not to mention rather unsettling. The music to the filmic exploits of this gallery of grotesque, dysfunctional characters is therefore entirely appropriate with its sinister, operatic, eclectic quality and I found myself frequently impressed by the range of music on offer, from gothic grandiose to frenetic action and then on to sweet natured poignancy.

This is a very likeable score, far better than might have been expected for a movie spin-off from an oddball, but often quite brilliant television show. Don’t hesitate to check it out.

Mark Hockley


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