‘Indie’ feels like the wr*ng w*rd to use when describing a big-b*dget TV series with a soundtrack by a milli*naire r*ckstar, but The End of the F***ing World, Netflix’s new series and Graham Coxon’s accompanying soundtrack, are b*th unmistakably ‘indie’. That is to say they are edgy enough to surprise but not to shock, a bit like those asterisks in the title.
Originally a graphic novel by Charles Forsman, The End of the F**king World, follows two disturbed teenagers: James is convinced he’s a psychopath who has decided to upgrade from killing animals to killing humans. Alyssa, is a wannabe rebel whose popularity at school doesn’t compensate for a tricky home life. Together, they follow a trail of violence. Channel Four’s TV adaptation transplanted the action from the US to the UK, in an unspecified pre-mobile phone era. First broadcast in 2017, it came and went without much fanfare but was bought and relaunched by Netflix. With the second series just completed, TEOTFW (as no-one is calling it) is set to be the next big sensation for the Boxset Generation.
Aside from his flawless Indie credentials, Coxon was the perfect choice to provide the music. His existing solo output would have worked anyway but Coxon was asked to compose something new and came up with this selection of sixteen tracks. Coxon’s work is deceptively simple – his stripped down spiky semi-punk tunes and fragile ballads support beautifully concise and poetic lyrics, in this case echoing the psychologically damaged antiheroes of the story. There are some smart nods to the fictional time period: Bus Stop is pure 1980s Cure riff; the cracking Lucifer Behind Me is The Clash Lite; instrumental Sleuth appears to be Coxon’s take on the Pink Panther theme. My favourite, the naked ballad ,Roaming Star, has a surprising woodwind solo and the lovely line “the rain smudges the trees”. The most moving song here is the sparse Saturday Night, which features an exquisite piano figure and the line “are you going to sleep with your shoes on?”. There is a smattering of interesting instrumental pieces serving specific dramatic scenes. Judging by Flashback, sixteen seconds of guitar thrash and saxophone squonk, one character can expect a sticky end.
The most challenging aspect of this record is Coxon’s voice: where his Blur bandmate Damon Albarn’s natural baritone and occasional falsetto get richer with age, Coxon has the quivering whine of a bedroom dweeb singing to his Lara Croft posters. Some may find this attractively ‘vulnerable’ but, after eighteen tracks I confess I found it grating. There’s a good test for this: listen to There’s Something in the Way You Cry and you’ll know which camp you’re in.
If you’re already a Coxon fan this quibble won’t matter to you, and if you’re hearing these tunes in the context of the the TV show you will not have time to be annoyed by it. If you don’t fancy the TV series, the album works perfectly well, without the accompanying visuals, as a f***ing good Coxon solo record.
Photo courtesy of Denholm Hewlett.
The End of the F**king World OST is out on 26th January.