It’s been 10 years since we first started taking the Hobbits to Isengard. I mean, it’s been way longer - the Hobbits could have fucking walked there, back again, managed to get served several times at the downstairs bar in Doggett’s and got a Southeastern train service all the way to Charing Cross since Tolkien put pen to page. But (and believe me, this is deeply unusual for me) let’s put J R R aside in this.
Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy is kind of… well, both too faithful (total lack of critical interrogation of Tolkien’s absolutely awful concepts around race, gender, etc.) and not faithful enough in that it appeared to miss all the points your correspondent’s teenage self managed to find in the series. Specifically, where Lord of the Rings is an obsessively detailed but ultimately quite modest and traumatised epic, a huge amount of which is two small, starving creatures crawling around in mud having moral dilemmas. The Jackson films take themselves as seriously and grandly as the books came to be and as I suspect their author probably never did.
Taking the Hobbits to Isengard, on the other hand, is a pure and perfect work and I will hear no ill spoken of it else ye never receive a pint in a round bought by me again.
It takes as its base the Hovis-theme-ripping-off music from The Shire - the small-worlded part of the films, before any grandeur is truly injected into the bloated beastie that is the trilogy. The Hobbiton theme is supposed to be homely, reassuring, quaint - like anything that succeeds at that, it sounds fucking amazing played on an airhorn.
The simplicity of the Shire’s theme is what allows it to so naturally accept the kitchen-sink style auditory ornamentation that is ‘a donk’. A classic staple of rave, it needs no introduction even in a world as apparently dislocated from two WKDs and a honk on some poppers as the miruvor-quaffing pipeweed fiends we see here.
As a lyrical piece, Taking The Hobbits is discursive - like many of the very best pieces of pop. One only has to consider the sweet, sweet tension of Fleetwood Mac’s The Chain or Brandy and Monica’s iconic The Boy Is Mine to recognise that dialogous pop is, when it works, a particularly sublime genre.
It doesn’t matter that the lines are, ostensibly, orphaned from their original place in the script - from the eponymous ejaculation to Gollum’s hissed What did u say??? they’re all perfectly addressing each other in the sort of gloriously confused cacophony usually reserved for a misunderstanding-based brawl outside a kebab shop at 3am.
I remember the first time I heard Taking The Hobbits To Isengard. It was quite a momentous occasion because I still had dial up, so it took roughly the length of a decent pop song to load and it was very difficult to tell if it was deliberate or a bandwidth-related glitch remix for at least 30 torturously disrupted seconds. I’d imagined it would be a fairly quick joke - most internet video based things were, at the time, but no; a fully fledged song. That just kept going.
The initial air horns! These are funny, yes because we remember them as the Shire theme, which isn’t even the music for this bit. The stuttering sample of the original line! Which sustains itself as Sheffield Dave-style shout out far better than it should, given it’s old seriousface Elf ears himself yelling off a horse.
(In retrospect, should have equated that with Sheffield Dave earlier)
Then there’s …polka bit. Few pop songs manage to maintain a polka interlude - Bohemian Rhapsody springs to mind but Taking the Hobbits To Isengard manages to repeatedly insert it without losing coherency around its original rave premise. If you don’t think ‘Tell me where is Gandalf, for I much desire to speak with him’ delivered over a little eurodance handbag bit is not both extremely funny and excellent pop, I can’t help you.
Taking The Hobbits To Isengard would score reasonably at Eurovision. Not because Eurovision is actually the home of comedy trash but because if France (and it would probably have to be France in order for the Elven analogues to take themselves seriously enough) scooted in on an artpop platform and wanged loads of fucking airhorns round the stadium it would be entirely in keeping with European sensibilities of solemnly considering the totally whimsical due to our inherent reservedness about experiencing joy.
(The slightly older and wiser part of me has to question the repeated use of Gollum’s ‘stupid, fat, Hobbits’ which makes sense in the context of what he is but isn’t inherently funny, unlike a context-dislocated, bass-intoned ‘A Balrog of Morgoth’)
The great thing about Taking The Hobbits To Isengard is it actually gets funnier the more it goes on. Like Star Trekkin it not only sets out to commit to a fairly one-note premise but to hammer that note until it falls out through the piano and becomes a transcendent free agent, cascading through the strings.
It takes a premise; that the Lord of the Rings films, in their overblown format, are very, very silly and runs with it extremely, deadly seriously. This is the core of not all but a fairly substantial chunk of really good pop, as well as an excellent manual for life. All things are here - a manic sense of imminent implosion, troubling past associated with racist ideologies, handcarts, hell, what did u say???
Very seriously; Taking The Hobbits To Isengard is a superb piece of fan work and it has substantially enriched my life to listen to it on loop for the past 45 minutes whilst watching a parliamentary debate on mute. Creators of this piece: thank.