Album Review: Matt Berry – Television Themes

When Acid Jazz Records announced earlier this year that Matt Berry’s next release would be an album of covers of Television Themes, I only momentarily considered if it was a spoof.

The thing is, as much as a release like Television Themes may seem like a silly throwaway idea, whose only real reason to exist is to satisfy a contractual obliged album release, on the other hand there is probably no better musician than Matt Berry to record an album celebrating a much overlooked musical art form, as he has gone record in the past regarding his admiration for television themes, particularly the work of the late great Ronnie Hazlehurst, and he’s even gone as far to feature the theme to 80s Ronnie Corbett vehicle Sorry in his live set. On top of all this, Matt Berry is primarily known as a comedy actor and voice over artist, so really, who better to record an album like this?

Okay, so there are those that will dismiss Television Themes as little more than a novelty release, rather than an album that will endure down the decades, regardless of Berry and his band’s musical prowess and the potency of the tunes that they are covering. My counter argument is this – Does every album ever recorded have to justify being analysed for cultural significance for decades after its release? Can’t music simply be music, and an album like Television Themes just be a pleasant listening experience that pushes your nostalgia buttons and perhaps highlights a piece of theme music that you may have heard dozens, if not hundreds of times, but you have never actually listened to? For example, how many people realised that the “Rainbow” theme had a temporary shift in tempo midway through, or were we all just tuning n to see if Bungle would finally snap and start pounding Zippy’s head into a table?

Okay, so Television Themes may not find itself ranking alongside the likes of What’s Going On, Revolver, or OK Computer as the most culturally significant albums ever released, but again I ask, should it really have to? Can’t an album just be a collection of tunes for us to play, enjoy and not have to think too deeply about? Due to the musical form it is celebrating, Television Themes is largely an instrumental album, with only a handful of tracks featuring vocals. This means that, rather than Television Themes being an album that you need to scour the lyrics for significant meaning, it instead lends itself to being played while you are working on something, or perhaps as a fun bit of background music when you have friends around for the evening, to see how long they would take to recognise a certain piece of music. It’s music for fun, which ultimately is what music should be about. If we’re putting so much effort into studying and analysing music, are we actually enjoying it? Can’t we just put some music on that we enjoy and get on with the rest of our lives, and make the most of the fleeting amount of time we have?

Television Themes is a fun half hour of music recorded by Matt Berry and his wonderful backing band, The Maypoles (it should perhaps be noted that Television Themes is the first time outside of their glorious live album from 2015 that The Maypoles have been mentioned by name on an album sleeve), celebrating some of the great theme tunes of yesteryear, and really, that’s all there needs to be to it.

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