Alt-prog-rock oddballs Thumpermonkey recently returned with their seventh release, an EP titled ‘Electricity’. Over the course of 20 minutes, the London-based quartet take you on an intriguing journey that explores a lost tale of human misadventure; the story of Victorian MP and visionary Lord James Badger. Wrapped in a sound that has hints of Haken, Radiohead, Queens of the Stone Age, and King Crimson, Thumpermonkey are tough ones to pin down. Nevertheless, ‘Electricity’ is short yet immersive EP that preludes next year’s ‘Make Me Young, Etc’ full-length.
With such a cinematic sound, it may come as no surprise that keyboardist/guitarist Rael Jones also works as a screen composer. Amongst his credits is his work on films such as ‘Everest’, ‘Horrid Henry: The Movie’, ‘Island’ and ‘Supersonic’, the Oasis documentary. He has also been involved in the Emmy-nominated series, ‘Sherlock’, as well as ‘Alan Partridge’ and ‘The Inbetweeners Movie’.
To celebrate his love for all things film and television, we asked Rael to tell us about his five favourite film soundtracks.
I was obsessed with death as a young child (“I hope I die before you mummy”), so it’s unsurprising that I was also fascinated with the 1978 animated adaptation of Richard Adams’ bunny-based-survival novel. Though I was initially glued to the scenes of rabbits tearing bits off each other, the beautiful melodic score is why I watched it on repeat. It is composed by Angela Morley, who orchestrated many of the famous John Williams soundtracks (ET, Star Wars, Superman etc). There is some of that same sound here, but with an English pastoral style that wonderfully accompanies the stoicism of the rabbits and the hand-drawn landscapes. Art Garfunkel sang the song ‘Bright Eyes’ for the film, which plays over a dream-like sequence when our lead rabbit is unconscious and very close to death. There is an ingenious interlude in the middle of the song using Morley’s main theme which is an absolute highlight for me.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
I’m a big fan of Jon Brion, including his work with Elliott Smith and on the non-shit Kanye West album ‘Late Registration’. His ‘Eternal Sunshine…’’ score is particularly charming and offbeat, often using weird home-made sounds that really fit with Michel Gondry’s direction style. Beck’s gloomy cover version of ‘Everybody Gotta Learn Sometime’ lands over the end credits and sums up the film perfectly too – insular, reflective, full of yearning.
It’s a stunning film this, rendered even more heartbreaking by Dario Marianelli’s smart use of music. Despite how bleak it all gets towards the end of the film, there’s plenty of playfulness in the score early on. The film opens with rhythmical tapping at the typewriter that is joined by a skipping compound rhythm for piano and strings, playing together in perfect time. In another clever moment, an underscore cue is ended abruptly by Keira Knightley plucking of a piano string on screen. The standout moment has to be the Elegy for Dunkirk though. There is an incredibly long steadycam shot tracking through the carnage on the beach, with the orchestra rising up to accompany (and subtle re-harmonise) the hymn sung by the soldiers ‘Dear Lord and Father of Mankind’.
Catch Me If You Can
It wouldn’t be a top 5 film soundtracks without at least one appearance from John Williams. Though this doesn’t have the dense orchestration and big brass fanfares one might associate with Ewok-based Williams scores, it more than makes up for it with a seamless weaving of jazz and minimalism that brilliantly plays up the fun of the chase depicted in the film.
Once Upon a Time in America
Who doesn’t love a big slushy string melody? Morricone provides two here that recur throughout the four hours narrative. Though I like the idea of variety throughout a film soundtrack, its hard not to be won over by the same great tunes and rich harmony, generously peppered throughout the running time. I was struggling to chose between this and ‘Cinema Paradiso’, which has a similar “just keep playing those same awesome themes across the whole film” type aesthetic.
‘Electricity’ EP by Thumpermonkey is out now on Rockosmos.