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Artwork copyright (c) 2005 Touchstone Pictures; review copyright (c) 2005 James Southall



Eclectic space opera


One of the few successful science fiction comedies, the late Douglas Adams's The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy has appeared in numerous guises since it first appeared, including both radio and television serials.  Each one has a very different spin than the one before, and the new movie, starring Martin Freeman and Sam Rockwell, is no exception.  Fortunately the unmistakably British humour remains, and the casting of Alan Rickman as the voice of Marvin the robot is perhaps the most inspired of the year.  The choice of composer was always going to be an interesting one - this is not a straightforward film, and there was always a suspicion that a mainstream film composer just might not "get" it - a little unfair, perhaps, but it was difficult to feel anything else.  

It was no surprise, therefore, that it was a relative unknown - Joby Talbot - who got the gig.  I say relatively unknown, though that's only really true in the world of film music - he's written several classical pieces and contributed arrangements to the orchestra-heavy Divine Comedy songs.  Not being at all familiar with his work, somehow I still knew what to expect from this score - an eclectic mix of obvious comedy music and über-drama.  This is pretty evident from the first three tracks.  Following a brief introduction narrated by Stephen Fry comes the wonderful song "So Long and Thanks for All the Fish", which is genuinely memorable and genuinely funny.  In fact, it's such a memorable tune that it's really quite disappointing it doesn't crop up more frequently within the score.

While the comedy music within the score proper is decent enough and perfect for the film, it is so eclectic that it can be quite difficult to listen to.  Far more interesting to me is the "straight" dramatic music.  It's over the top, but excellent.  The full orchestral power of "Destruction of Earth", "Capture of Trillian", "Vogcity" and others is really very impressive.  There's lighter music, too, in two forms - the sweet, romantic "Love" (which impresses once more) or "The Whale" and spaced-out synth sounds of "Inside the Vogon Ship" or "Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster", which are quite amusing but which I can't imagine too many people will ever want to sit and listen to.  I have to say, though, that by far the most impressive burst of music within the score itself are the few bars of the original tv series theme (by Bernie Leadon) at the end of "Journey of the Sorcerer".

Dotted around the album are various songs which, as ever, may or may not appeal depending on your taste, but which certainly don't fit in with the score and interrupt its flow.  Neil Hannon's version of "So Long and Thanks for All the Fish" presents the song in a different, though no less impressive, light, with him crooning like the best of them, but the placed, stock music by the likes of Al Green and Perry Como don't really belong.  With those gone and some of the more schizophrenic bits of score pruned a little this would be a great album; as it is, it's certainly a good one anyway, and leads me to want to hear more from the composer.

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  1. The Dolphins (1:00)
  2. So Long and Thanks for All the Fish Hilary Summers, Kemi Ominiyi, The R'SVIP Voices (2:26)
  3. Arthur Wakes Up (2:53)
  4. Shoo-Rah!  Shoo-Rah! Betty Wright (2:51)
  5. Here I Am (Come and Take Me) Al Green (4:13)
  6. Destruction of Earth (1:31)
  7. Journey of the Sorcerer (1:15)
  8. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1:14)
  9. Inside the Vogon Ship (2:46)
  10. Vogon Poetry (:48)
  11. Space (1:00)
  12. Vogon Command Centre (1:00)
  13. Trillian and Arthur Reunited (1:45)
  14. Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster (1:40)
  15. Tea in Space (1:08)
  16. Deep Thought (2:06)
  17. Infinite Improbability Drive (:55)
  18. Viltvodle Street Music (:44)
  19. Huma's Hymn Gabriel Crouch (1:01)
  20. Capture of Trillian (4:27)
  21. Vogcity (1:02)
  22. Love (1:44)
  23. The Whale (1:53)
  24. Planet Factory Floor (2:29)
  25. Earth Mark II (6:29)
  26. Magic Moments Perry Como (2:37)
  27. Shootout (3:23)
  28. Finale (1:50)
  29. Blast Off (:16)
  30. So Long and Thanks for All the Fish Neil Hannon (2:54)
  31. Careless Talk (1:42)
  32. Vote Beeblebrox (3:27)
  33. Reasons to be Miserable (His Name is Marvin) Stephen Fry (3:37)