The late director Derek Jarman's film The Last of England was a non-narrative series of images, largely desolate and foreboding, depicting his vision of post-Thatcher Britain. The soundtrack organized for it, by his longtime collaborator Simon Turner, mirrors this approach, constructing a varied framework of his own music along with the contributions of several others, including Mayo Thompson, Barry Adamson, and Diamanda Galás. The disc is divided into three sections. First is an 8-track suite (designated collectively as "Bombers") by Turner, and it's extraordinarily impressive. He mixes in various genres, often very tonal and nostalgic (church hymns, Spanish guitar music, romantic string arrangements) with found sounds, spoken words, and extremely harsh electronic effects; at one point, it sounds very much as though a titanic car wreck is occurring within one's speakers. The closing "Hymn for Thatcher" is cloyingly sweet, and just when the listener is about to scream, Tilda Swinton's sarcastic voice appears over the top: "Yeah, yeah, yeah--enough!" and continues on to mockingly singalong. The second section is a series of tunes by various performers, generally in a rock vein, and features a killer number by ex- Gang of Four member Andy Gill, "In the Free World," as well as a rich mini-soundpiece by Adamson. The final portion (designated, "Dead to the World") for the most part consists of spoken texts by Jarman and several of his actors, laid over evocative, pastoral music by Turner; very effective and moving. On the penultimate track, Turner indulges in his penchant for silly kitsch with the upbeat dance number "Broadway Boy" before succumbing to the closing, muted hums of the oscilloscope that symbolize "The National Grid," with its intimations of mind control. The Last of England is a superb, multifaceted musical document, easily enjoyed apart from the film it originally accompanied and stands as one of the high water marks in Turner's career. Highly recommended.
The Last of England Review
by Brian Olewnick