When I first heard they were making a TV series based on the Coen Brothers’ modern classic, Fargo I wasn’t thrilled by the idea, to put it mildly. However, the TV ads that came out closer to its release intrigued me and it had a decent cast, including Billy Bob Thornton and Martin Freeman, so I eventually took the plunge, and I’m very glad that I did. There is a lot of good TV around these days, but this was the first time in a while that I’ve been totally hooked to something and watched it on it’s actual broadcast airing. Usually I wait for the box set, but I was eager for Sunday night to come around each week so I could find out what was going to happen next. It doesn’t seem to have got people talking as much as Game of Thrones and Breaking Bad etc. but Fargo really was up there as one of the best TV shows around.
Most elements of the show were top notch, but the score caught my attention in particular. Initially this was just because off the bat it utilises Carter Burwell’s wonderful theme from the film the series is inspired by, but as time went on I can remember hearing some great pieces of music beyond that instantly recognisable theme. So when I was offered a chance to review the soundtrack I leapt at the chance. Admittedly it’s taken me a while to get around to writing my review, but life just gets in the way sometimes.
Anyway, the album opens with ‘Bemidji, MN (Fargo Series Main Theme)’ which takes the original theme and softly toys with it. It seems to have slightly more of a tenderness to it although it’s been a while since I’ve seen the original film so I might be wrong. The theme isn’t overplayed through the soundtrack, which can be the case sometimes with a recognisable theme like that. You can hear it influencing much of the score, but each track still has its own character. In fact there are a few character themes in play.
As you can imagine if you know the music from the Coen Brothers’ film or if you saw the series, the music is largely quite brooding and dark, but it has its playful side. ‘Malvo Reinvents’ has threat, but the walking bass line gives an almost light jazzy underpinning. Then you’ve got ‘Wrench and Numbers’ which is quite a change of pace with an offbeat quite funky heavy drum lead.
It’s a top notch soundtrack, but the only slight issue I find is that it doesn’t always hold my attention. When I sit and listen to the soundtrack carefully I love it, but when listening on my way to work I often forget I have it on. It’s a little too low-key and moody to be a real attention grabber perhaps. When you give it time it sounds great though. Plus moments like the blaring intro to ‘Gus pt 2’ wake you up if you do lose track.
The whole score seems to fly by though even it it isn’t always in your face. This is partly due to a lot of constantly moving motifs and walking baselines giving drive to the music.
The last few tracks bring the album nicely to a close. ‘Malvo (Eyes Wide)’ is one of the album’s bigger, more dramatic moments and leads into ‘Gus and Molly’ which is one of the softer more heartfelt cues. A mild chase theme, ‘Thin Ice’ brings us to ‘Bemidji, MN’, which is a great summing up of the themes and general sound of the score which builds to a satisfyingly big iteration of the main theme. It feels like the end of the album, but there is one track left afterwards, ‘Highway Snow’, which is a short atmospheric piece which seemed very odd to end with.
So, it’s not perfect, but the soundtrack to the Fargo TV series remains highly recommended, much like the show itself.