JG Thirlwell sold out a two-night stand at National Sawdust this spring. Admittedly, the place’s capacity is smaller than you would think, considering its size, but that’s still an achievement. Are there enough old goths or cinephiles to pack the Happy Lucky No. 1 Gallery, where he’s playing on May 31 at 8 PM? Probably. The surprisingly eclectic film composer – with a punishing past in 80s industrial and gothic music – is opening a cunningly conceived twinbill. The similarly cinematic if considerably sunnier Tredici Bacci, who make hilarious videos poking fun at 60s and 70s Italian film and its scores, play afterward at around 9. Cover is $20; get there early if you’re going.
Out of Thirlwell’s substantial back catalog, his tv cartoon score Music of The Venture Bros., Vol. 2 might be the best way to gear up for the show.It’s funny, relentlessly energetic, very 80s, and it shows how colorful Thirlwell can be when the script calls for it. In addition to composing this score, he also conducts the orchestra.
A sardonic fanfare builds to a big, amtbitious theme in the opening number, Ham and Cheese Hero. With one eyebrow raised, the orchestral arrangement pulses almost frantically through the antagonist’s theme, Chickenhawk
Big Rooster is straight-up bombast for the dancefloor, spiced with blippy R2D2 electronics, while Pay the Piper is an incongruously successful maashup of Led Zep and Bartok for strings and percussion.
Optimistic Space Travel could be a techier predecessor for Tredici Bacci’s sarcastic blitheness. Tension rises with the strings in Ready for Takeoff,; then, in Scenester, Thirlwell builds an irresistibly sardonic space lounge scenario accented with wry faux-jazz.
The rest of the album, sequentially, includes warpy video game-style variations; a furtively hilarious mashup of John Barry and Isaac Hayes; ominously murky strings and Exorcist keys; a sick, OCD shout-out to both Richard Strauss and the Mission Impossible theme; phony P-Funk; space valkyries; a chase, a ridiculous march and a big stomping coda. Now where can you hear all this goodnatured noise? Not on Bandcamp or Soundcloud, unfortunately. Not on Spotify either, and a youtube search yields nothing on the first several search pages. If you have the energy, start with Thirlwell’s Vimeo channel.