Friday, May 23, 2014

Music According to Benedict - "Skeleton Boy" by Friendly Fires

Nancy Carroll & Benedict Cumberbatch  Credit:Geraint Lewis

Before Benedict gave us a bit of "legal dancing" whilst talking with a convention audience, his love of music had already been shared with interviewers - and taken to heart and head by his fans. It may have not been a Top Tunes list, but music is acknowledged to be one of Benedict's many passions, and his appreciation for Friendly Fires, the English indie band from St. Alban's, is longstanding.

In a profile of the actor entitled, "The Fabulous Baker Street Boy" (because who doesn't love a Sherlock Holmes tie-in?), reporter Lesley White wrote:
"After the show (Terence Rattigan's "After the Dance") the actor had showered, danced around to "Skeleton Boy" by Friendly Fires to “shake off” the interwar years, and dived into the National’s Green Room to have a drink with his friends, but then escaped to the fresh air of a balcony, alone. “I just felt, ‘This is too much.’ I was hot. So I walked away from everyone.” -  The Sunday Times - Aug. 12, 2010)

We'll get to the song in a moment, but there was something I wanted to find out first:

Following a trend first mentioned in our review of the Maccabees,  a quick check of the record company Friendly Fires calls home, XL Recordings, proves intriguing: a successful independent record label in England producing an average of six albums a year. Well, if you're only going to release a half-dozen albums a year, you best have good instincts, don't you think? Let's see. In addition to Friendly Fires, who else do we find recording for XL? At least three other artists Benedict has favorited:

  • Adele, whose sophomore album 21 earned critical acclaim, industry awards - and profits for XL nearing £42 million in 2011.
  • Radiohead, whose 2000 song, "How to Disappear Completely" will likely always be linked to Benedict (and his fans), due to its connection to the 2004 carjacking he and  two friends endured. 
  • Sigur Rós, the Icelandic indie band whose music I first heard years ago while watching HBO's "Queer As Folk," and who continue to find success on screen with their cover of "The Rains of Castamere" and a cameo on HBO's "Game of Thrones" (which films in Iceland).

(Much like the earlier discussion of Fiction Records, XL Recording looks to be a label whose vision (and roster) Benedict appreciates.)

So, what about Friendly Fires, you may ask? Well, the music trio first came together in 2006 while students at St. Alban's School. (Stephen Hawking is an alum, too. Funny how these things come together. . .)

Their self-titled debut album was recorded in the garage belonging to the parents of lead singer Ed MacFarlane and released in 2008.  Released as the fifth single from the album in 2009, "Skeleton Boy" reached a respectable #48 on the UK Singles Chart and remained in the Top 100 for three weeks. The album would later become certified double gold in the UK.

While the single's tempo is upbeat, and the electronic pop synth sounds perfect when you want to "shake off" a bad mood or stressful experience, the lyrics seem more a surrender to what has already been lost:

"I close my eyes, on the dance floor 
And forget about you
I lose myself in flashing colours
I've gotta see it through

You're too much,
I take it that we're over
Should we even care at all?
You're too much, too much
Let's shake hands and say good(bye)"

The video reflects camp and caustic wit - but mind that you don't get too lost in the rhythm to notice:

Whatever Benedict was experiencing professionally or personally at the time, he connected with the song - and, as luck would have it, the band made a connection with Benedict, asking him to add his voice to their contribution for  the "Late Night Tales" compilation music series. It was on that 2012 release that Cumberbatch read Part 1 of Simon Cleary's short story "Flat of Angles" - which fans continue to appreciate (including the fourth - and final - installment that debuted exclusively on Digital Spy earlier this month.)

Whatever the mood or moment, music can have a place, if you let it. While some of the selections we cover may not be to your particular taste, the artists and songs we profile can expand your knowledge - and the potential of your own personal soundtrack. Would you have thought one actor's appreciation for a 4-minute song could result in HIS recording for the band who created it? Seems more than coincidence to me.  Never underestimate what music can do.

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