Check under your bed before you put your headphones on, because here comes the Luther soundtrack. Or, to use its unwieldy full name, ‘Idris Elba presents Luther: Songs and Score from Series 1, 2 & 3′. Whatever you decide to call it, it’s music that DCI John Luther and his (now very wet) coat have solved crimes to.
Listening to the album is an enjoyment of two parts: on one hand there’s the selection of music featured in the show, and on the other there’s the score created specifically for the show by series composer Paul Englishby, whose past work includes An Education and About a Boy, and who we’ll be hearing more of when Chris Chibnall’s Great Train Robbery dramas air on BBC One later this year.
Englishby’s compositions are the musical overcoat to the series – tracks woven with such dread you’d think that it was Ruth Wilson’s Alice threateningly wielding the baton while holding the orchestra at gunpoint. With a frantic, Hans Zimmer signature percussion and strings led thump, the tracks have an oppressive quality that skilfully avoids ever descending into a monotonous dirge.
Much the same can be said for the 12 songs used in the series – from a wide range of artists and bands – all of which feel vaguely haunted and introspective but which contain such energy that it doesn’t become a drag to listen to more than one at a time. Suede’s ‘She’ is achingly sexy, while The Heavy’s ‘Big Bad Wolf’ is the kind of track you want to turn up to 11 and drink in until your kidneys quiver and your ear drums start to throb ever so slightly.
So you may have come to the conclusion that this is not dinner party music. And you are correct. It’s music for a long journey through a dark night; a soundtrack to the last quarter of a bottle of whisky; the kind of thing you put on so you can sit and enjoy a grimace at a hard day well fought. The Luther soundtrack is your reward for getting through another day without being killed or dangled off a balcony. What more can you ask for?
As always, we at CultBox put all our investigations on hold (yes, we occasionally solve crimes), swung on our coolest coat, and clambered into our Volvo to drive the mean streets and pick our five favourite tracks from the album…
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly why ‘Paradise Circus’ is the ideal fit for Luther‘s opening titles. Perhaps it’s because Massive Attack’s clappy, hypno-melancholic lullaby is the balanced combination of the cool and the quietly tormented. Just like Luther. Who knows? Answers on a postcard.
A howl that lies halfway between beauty and pain moves sinuously across an unforgiving drumbeat and plucked guitar. It’s simple, but incredibly effective.
‘Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood’
It’s Nina Simone, what more needs to be said? She could sing the phonebook and it’d be the most soulful and smoky seven hundred minutes of your life. But the actual song itself, and the lyrics, apply more to John Luther than any other track that’s been laid over the credits. ‘I’m just a soul whose intentions are good / Oh Lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood’…and also I didn’t kill my wife. Or Ripley.
The music for the man himself is as reflective and haunting as you would expect. An uncomplicated piano, stripped down strings, and a hollowed, troubled voice lull you into a melancholic reflectiveness until – BAM! – right at the end there’s a series of percussive convulsions that remind you not to get too comfortable.
‘Attack in the Attic’
No doubt, the first time you listen to this will be spent with fingernails dug into thighs, waiting for the shock to come. And indeed it does. Chilling strings and strange synthesised noises toy threateningly with your ear drums until everything gets caught up in a whirlwind of stabbing orchestral frenzy and a frantic beat. Probably not one to have on while you clear your loft out then.
Released on Monday 16 September 2013 by Silva Screen.
What’s your favourite piece of music from Luther? Let us know below…