What does it sound like?:
The Shelby brothers emerged from the tunnels of the First World War and proceeded to use their ingenuity and ruthless brutality to wreak havoc across the Midlands. Tommy is the brains of the family, Arthur its fists and Aunt Polly its heart. Peaky Blinders has enjoyed five successful TV seasons to date. It is shot in colour but looks black and white, mired in mud and smog. Key to its success is the Songtrack. The use of Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds’ Red Right Hand as the theme tune is pivotal. It defines the show sonically and atmospherically. Dark, ominous, dripping with blood, an outsider arises from the shadows. All else follows its template.
In an era of Spotify, it is easy to put together a playlist of Red Right Hand soundalikes. A soundtrack, such as this, needs to offer something extra and Peaky Blinders does not disappoint. There are brief snippets of dialogue from the main characters, none of which overstay their welcome. There are pieces of the score, setting the mood and, most importantly, some exclusive songs. PJ Harvey has two tracks on the set but adds a made-for-the-show cover of Red Right Hand. Jehnny Beth’s I’m The Man, from season four, is the most vicious and priapic track on offer. Anna Calvi was commissioned to write You’re Not God for season five and her cover of FKA Twigs’ Papi Pacify is also included. The finale is Richard Hawley’s authoritative take on Ballad Of A Thin Man. Add to that classic Radiohead, Black Sabbath, Jack White, Artic Monkeys, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Queens Of The New Stone Age and Joy Division combined with more modern material by Laura Marling, Foals, Royal Blood, Savages, Rachel Unthank, and Idles and you have a toxic brew worthy of an Aunt Polly gypsy curse. To polish things off, the double CD or triple vinyl set comes with a glossy, informative 32 page book.
The whole thing works very well in a single sitting, progressing through each season in chronological order. The feminine voices provide a necessary contrast. Tommy’s weakness is his tendency to fall in love but the women are just as bloodthirsty and indomitable as the men. David Bowie’s Lazarus is an emotional highlight. He loved the show and asked that they used some of his music from Blackstar. The fifth season is wilder and more punk as the PTSD kicks in. When Richard Hawley’s stately guitar draws matters to a close, the temptation is to start again at the beginning.
Peaky Blinders is an excellent soundtrack, one to file along with True Detective Season One.
What does it all *mean*?
The devil has the best tunes.
Goes well with…
A black mood and rage in the heart.
8th November 2019
Might suit people who like…
Spending a couple of hours immersed in an atmosphere cleverly curated by someone else.