Thursday, 22 August 2019

in which i revise peaky blinders


I had to take a little walk to the edge of town recently, to catch up with Peaky Blinders, before the new season hits. It is quite like a Birmingham gipsy version of Sopranos, with a backdrop of off-track betting instead of - er- garbage disposal.

The sense of place is strong too, with Small Heath, Birmingham like a kind of steampunk Bladerunner set, with swirling mists and flames coming from every dark corner. Some say the accents are off, but to this Southerner's ear there is enough to position Birmingham when it's needed and clear offsets to Jewish and Italian London and Belfast Irish when they are required.

There's enough of a context of traumatised soldiers back from World War I in the first series and the casual ways that post-war guns and ammunition are in plentiful supply. We get the struggle as the gangster-like kingpin grasps his way to better things, with almost wild western undertones and despite the inevitable obstacles from police and rival gangs and even the New York mafia.

The women become an increasing force to be reckoned with. A honey trap set in Series one which blows away the end of that particular series, in the last 240 frames.

Then there's Polly, the woman who could probably run the entire empire if required, and we see her steely resolve play out in Series 2. There's something almost Brechtian about some of the scenes in pubs and the living room where the plots get hatched.

Brecht would have Pirate Jenny singing, but here we get an unmissable dark musical soundtrack from the likes of Nick Cage, The White Stripes, Anna Calvi, The Kills, PJ Harvey, Radiohead, Tom Waits, Laura Marling...the list goes on, and nearly all remixed to provide the visceral guitar and clanks that set the junkyard tone. Listen for that gun being cocked in the theme tune. Here's a spotify playlist of 120 of them, even David Bowie's Lazerus.

Will I have revised it all in time for the new series 5, which starts next week? I think so, and I'll expect it to be just as cinematic.

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