Review: League of Gentleman\'s Apocalypse, The
4.5 / 5 Stars
It was The Divine Comedy\'s magnificent 1998 album Fin de siecle that first alerted me Joby Talbot and his talent for orchestral composition. Needless to say that it was not before long that his name cropped up again as other musicians soon sought to collaborate with him, and he was already gaining commissions to write pieces for the BBC and the British Film Institute. It was in 1999 however that he came to score an inspired television series for BBC Two that spawned from the stage and radio antics of a comedy quartet known as "The League of Gentlemen".
Following three series and a sublime Christmas special, in 2005 a variety of the gents\' outlandish characters made their big screen debut with Talbot, of course, on board for scoring duties marking the first time since the Christmas Special that the comedians exploits were to be entirely backed by a full orchestra.
The album of The League of Gentlemen\'s Apocalypse comes courtesy of Silva Screen, and at an average running time of forty-two minutes the majority of the film\'s score is here. Kicking off with the "Apocalypse Theme" this is in fact one of a number of cues to put a spin on The League of Gentlemen theme tune with this specific arrangement ending up the butt of a running gag throughout the film.
Perhaps the most unique flipside to the film itself is that the opportunity of having the characters of Royston Vasey breaking out into the real world in search of their makers is not considered enough by the writers. As the film has it, the League of Gentlemen are bored with their old creations and are turning their hand to something new with a fresh feature film script. It is not before long that the creations from the two fictional works and the real world are crisscrossing and threatening their own very existence when ironically the one thing they are all desperate to do is survive.
"The Kings\' Evil," the film within the film and the title of track twelve, allows the composer to whisk himself thematically to the seventeenth century as the stars revel in the flamboyant costumes of the era whilst delivering their most loving nods to British horror. Here the music is often distinctly Handel inspired in its arrangement, and the frequent playful presence of the harpsichord helps the listener distinguish musically where we are. "Dr Pea" is a particular highlight from this same section of the story, albeit heard earlier on the disc, where we\'re introduced to the films most sinister and unashamedly malevolent character. Later, "Arise, Sir Geoffrey" proves to be another welcome step back in time.
In the televised outings of "The League of Gentlemen", regardless of budget, Joby Talbot demonstrated that he could consistently deliver arrangements meeting the demand of any scene, and this is something that continues here with the film score. Yes the scale is larger than what has come before, but still everything remains firmly routed in the musical world of Royston Vasey staying within familiar territory, yet at the same time taking it to the next level. Some cues are not without that series three sound ("Leaving for London" and "Have you seen Me") and we\'re not entirely deprived of the oldest rendition of the theme thanks to the appearance of the classic bass riff in "Stripped Down Theme." Simply put, were you to follow the music from series one through to the feature film, there is a clear evolution of themes and arrangements that proves most rewarding and engaging.
"End Titles" marks the score\'s most welcome surprise to avid followers of the music from the television series. When I sat in the cinema watching the closing credits, I had to smile at Talbot\'s reprisal of the utterly charming closing music written for the final episode of series three, which is precisely what we have here in all its glory as the album\'s closing track. Of course, unlike the television version, this time it is enhanced by the performance by the RTE Concert Orchestra and is exceptionally beautiful.
It\'s the last cue on the album that, when put alongside other select cues from the score, not only goes to show how versatile Talbot is as a composer, but equally sums up how versatile The League of Gentlemen members are themselves when it comes to fearlessly taking their characters in certain directions. The film is brave in not pandering entirely to fan favourites. Whilst still leaving much for the fans to enjoy, it\'s the creators themselves seemingly left happiest of all with the characters they most enjoy, old and new, leading the story on screen. As downright despicable as some of their creations may be, The League and Talbot never forget there are two sides to every coin and their brand of originality continues to make their collaborations shine.
Now, if Mr Talbot and Silver Screen would care to collaborate again, this time on delivering a release of the music from the Christmas special and television series, I may just be able to start sleeping soundly.
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