Given that Alan Bennett's play The History Boys focuses on a group of English grammar-school students in the early '80s, it makes sense that the soundtrack to the film version should reflect the same time period. Smartly, while the stage version featured mainstream hits by bands like Duran Duran, Madness, and Dire Straits, director Nicholas Hynter's film soundtrack goes a step further, utilizing cuts by bands he believes the characters in the story would probably have actually preferred. To these ends, listeners get cuts by such iconic '80s "college rock" bands as New Order, the Smiths, Echo & the Bunnymen, and others. Similarly, as one of the teachers in the play loves the nostalgic standards of the '30s and '40s the soundtrack also includes versions of such classic tracks as "Bye Bye Blackbird" as well as English soprano Gracie Fields' iconic recording of "Wish Me Luck (As You Wave Me Goodbye)." Also included is a superb version of the American Popular Songbook standard "Bewitched," sung by Rufus Wainwright and a must-hear for fans of the singular pianist/vocalist. Admittedly, some of this stylistic jumping about could be off-putting to listeners only interested in hearing the rock-oriented cuts, but as an organic and thoughtful representation of the story and characters, The History Boys soundtrack should be an endearing and evocative listen for fans of Bennett's work.
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AllMusic Review by Matt Collar