The Hour. A show praised as much for its ability to make operating a typewriter while smoking and wearing houndstooth look cool as for the talent of the actors who were actually doing it. But what of its music?
Unfortunately it suffers from a problem that plagues a number of TV soundtracks: separated from the show’s visual cudgel of 1950sness and presented just for your ears it feels less like an album of work and more like a series of tunes in search of a show to carry them.
The album’s 24 tracks are the work of two composers: Daniel Giorgetti (who composed for Foyles’ War) created music for Series 1 before Kevin Sargent took over for Series 2. Of the two Sargent has the lion’s share of the work and is more bold in his composition (helped by aspects of Series 2’s storyline), but tends to vacillate between the sleazy sighs of the jazz saxophone and upbeat percussive Latin beats. Cutting through the ponderous jazz tar, Hannah Tointon (who played actress Kiki) belts out her in-show renditions of ‘Betcha I Getcha’ and ‘Never Tango with an Eskimo’ with the serviceable verve of a nightclub showgirl who’s working out her contract before she starts her law degree in the autumn.
The result is a curious mix of the cheeky and the incredibly drab, a mixture of overly dour jazz and manic Latin that sits together like oil on scotch. And though all incredibly evocative of the period, and the show’s central story lines, it just doesn’t make a hugely interesting listening experience. Pleasant enough, but not memorable.
Mind you, if you own a trench coat and a camera with a telescopic lens and need to do some snooping – say, catching an errant spouse indulging in a spot of slap and tickle with the costermonger, or exposing a ring of Communist spies who meet secretly behind the decorative koi pond in your local garden centre to plot the downfall of the nation – then The Hour‘s mysterious and moody jazz will fit your life perfectly.
As usual, we told our secretary to hold all our telexes, fed a new ribbon into our typewriter, and picked our 5 favourite tracks before heading to B&Q to catch those Soviet quislings…
‘Never do a Tango with an Eskimo’
In the 1950s and preparing to enjoy that one night of – say it quietly – amoré, that you and your other half permit each other every year? Tointon cheery belting out the bouncy ‘Never do a Tango with an Eskimo’ is the perfect mood setter song to whip your socks off to. Now, down your cherry brandy, flick off the lights and get to work quickly and efficiently before the neighbours realise what’s going on.
As the saxophone wails, and the piano growls you half expect a grumpy PI to start monologuing about some dame that double crossed him as he drops his colt on his desk and empties a bottle of bourbon in a mug. It’s the musical personification of heartache, late night loneliness, and one drink too many. Your standard Wednesday night then.
‘Success is the Best Revenge’
Practice seducing wealthy widows on cruise liner dance floors by perfecting your hip action to the sexy sounds of ‘Success is the best revenge’; a raunchy barrage of trumpets and a fiery Latin beat that is sure to have you swinging around your living room and terrifying the cat. This ‘Revenge…’ is best served with a Mojito and a rose clenched between your teeth.
‘You are Possible with Me’
A mournful but beautiful piece, as the sad twinklings of the piano give way to the deep rich throb of cellos and the whine of a violin. It’s otherwise unremarkable, although if you’re listening to it on the bus after a bad day at work and you’ve just realised that there’s nothing in the fridge for dinner, it might be enough to send you over the edge into tears.
Cymbals, finger clicks, piano notes, clock ticks, flute licks… no, we’re not writing beatnik poetry here, man. It’s The Hour’s opening theme, which does sound like something the Pink Panther might stealthily break into a house to in order to steal a diamond and leave an unpleasant message in the toilet, but which captures the smoky air 50s cool and intrigue that The Hour gave us.
Released on Monday 5 August 2013 by Silva Screen Records.
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