Whilst the teen protagonists of Netflix’s new coming-of-age comedy ‘Sex Education’ confront love, friendship and all things sex-ed, the eclectic and vivacious soundtrack provides our eardrums with little to be desired.
Co-penned by the incredible Ezra Furman and the visions, the 60+ songs are all John-Hughes-classic ready. However, I fear the plot pitch of a ‘16 year old who, despite being repulsed by his own touch, has acquired enough knowledge from his liberal sex therapist single mother to open a profitable sex clinic in his school’ is something only Netflix UK can get away with.
Asa Butterfield perfectly depicts the awkward yet endearing nature of Otis, whose room is laden with neatly stacked records he prefers to just “sit and listen to”. Cue Eric, best friend and our lord of the clashing print, who gets Otis’ lanky limbs moving by quite rightly arguing “what’s the point?”. The instructive sounds of Parliament lure Otis to ‘Give up the funk (tear the roof off the sucker)’, and as the episodes provide us with hit after hit, you get sucked right in with him.
Ezra & co feature heavily in the episodes with both tracks old and new, like the unreleased ‘Coming Clean’, aptly playing as Otis comprises a faux set up of illicit magazines and hand cream. By the time Otis and Eric are cycling through the roads of Wales to ‘Love You So Bad’, we too are helmet clad and ready for the first day back at school.
Though supposedly set in the present day, the fictitious town of Moordale is an ode to every 80s classic on the shelf. From ‘The Breakfast Club’ wardrobe vibes to Principal Goff pulling a ‘Risky Business’ style hallway slide to Bob Seger’s ‘Old time Rock and Roll’. However, the novelty of Jackson’s Heath-Ledger-on-the-bleachers style grand gesture to the sounds of Billy Ocean’s ‘Love Really Hurts Without You’ was truly the cherry on top. Episode one draws to a close with Billy Idol’s 80s hit ‘Dancing with Myself’, as Otis does something other than dance with himself (or at least gives it a go).
Though the house party cliché features the nostalgia of Lambrini slurs in the bathtub, the familiar bouncy crescendo of A-Ha’s ‘Take On Me’ isn’t exactly a common companion to M.O’s ‘Bad Vibes’ on the playlist – but maybe it should be. Nevertheless, a few “sex pretzels” here and there elicits Timbuk 3’s ‘The Future’s So Bright (I gotta wear shades)’ as the untoward sex clinic is “open for business”.
The dynamic nature of the handpicked tracks offer depth to the interweaving storylines as the episodes progress.
The tracks are utilised to foreshadow the events to come and offer comedic refuge from the, at times, painfully cringe-worthy realities of teen romancing. Each episode has a focal therapy ‘client’ and a corresponding theme tune, be it poor Kate with her self-esteem issues and boyfriend Sam whose love really can only keep lifting her higher (and higher am I right Jackie Wilson), or the lesbian couple whose incompatibility really has left them with the Talking Heads on the ‘Road to Nowhere’. As Otis tries to shed his virginal status with the atypical Lily, their union is about as harmonious as the frantic switch between Whale noises, ‘Ave Maria’, his “Fantasy Friday Playlist” and Tone-Loc’s ‘Wild Thing’. Truly as far from mood music as one could get.
The dynamic nature of the handpicked tracks offer depth to the interweaving storylines as the episodes progress. The The’s ‘This is the Day’ simultaneously narrates Jackson’s get-up-and-go athletic routine, Otis’ somewhat long awaited (and unwanted) night time emissions and Maeve’s visit to the abortion clinic. In the same vain, Furman’s ‘Body Was Made’ manages to encapsulate the internal conflict of Eric’s self-expression and self-preservation, whilst also concluding an empowering scene of female comradery as the girls all claim the leaked vagina nude as their own.
As we watch the two unlikely friends sway in the middle of the floor, the lyrics “they were part sun part earth part daughter part son” feel like they were written just for them
Episode 7 is where the Ezra magic really gets going as he leads the band in songs old and new at the school dance, from ‘Driving down to LA’ to ‘At the Bottom of The Ocean’. As they roll out a song “for all the couples” (as long as they “get consent”), Otis and Eric get ready to steal the show. As Eric utters “oh my god I love this song”, Otis apologises for his harsh wrongdoings and asks “may I have this dance”. As we watch the two unlikely friends sway in the middle of the floor, the lyrics “they were part sun part earth part daughter part son” feel like they were written just for them (which as it’s unreleased I’d say they just may well have been).
The show was a journey for our ears and eyes, but after Otis shared his first kiss with the ballsy Ola, Sigue Sigue Sputnik’s Love Missile F1-11 was not the only thing firing (I’m sorry) as our therapist finally finds release all on his own, just less crumpet fuelled than Aimee.
So, has the high school bio-pic changed that drastically since the 80s? We still have a brain (Otis), an athlete (Jackson), a basket case (Adam), a princess (Aimee) and a criminal (Maeve). Yet now each of these individuals evade their labels; the brain suffers the same familial dysfunction as the basket case and the princess, the athlete has anxiety and can’t get the girl, the criminal is vocal about her appreciation for Virginia Woolf whilst listening to Sløtface, and then we have Eric, who no label could pin down if it tried. The music is about as haphazard and unexpected as the show itself, but alongside Netflix’s other recent originals, it, like Adam, really has owned its own narrative.
Because the current Spotify show tracklist is only semi-cooked I’ve listed all the tracks I could find below:
- MUDDY WATERS – MANNISH BOY
- COMING CLEAN – EZRA FURMAN (UNRELEASED?)
- LOVE YOU SO BAD – EZRA FURMAN
- BORN IN 77 – KING KHAN
- I CAN’T STAND THE RAIN – ANN PEEBLES
- TIR HA MOR – GWENNO
- DR.JEKYLL & MR HYDE – EZRA FURMAN
- GOOD PILLS – DIRTY STREET
- DANCING WITH MYSELF – BILLY IDOL ( ft.GENERATION X)
- I NEED A SEX EDUCATION – EZRA FURMAN (UNRELEASED?)
- LIKE SUGAR- CHAKA KHAN
- FUCK ALL THE PERFECT PEOPLE – CHIP TAYLOR & THE UKRANIANS
- GIVE UP THE FUNK (TEAR THE ROOF OFF THE SUCKER) – PARLIAMENT
- REBEL GIRL – BIKINI KILL
- KING OF WISHFUL THINKING – GO WEST
- GIVE ME REASON- IBIBIO SOUND MACHINE
- BAD VIBE – M.O, LOTTO BOYZZ & MR EAZI
- SHA LA LA LA LEE- SMALL FACES
- WHAT YOU NEED – INXS
- TAKE ON ME – A-HA
- YOUR LOVE KEEPS LIFTING ME HIGHER & HIGHER) – JACKIE WILSON
- I RAN- A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS
- THE FUTURE’S SO BRIGHT (I GOTTA WEAR SHADES)- TIMBUK 3
- RESTLESS YEAR – EZRA FURMAN
- THIS IS THE DAY – THE THE
- FIRE – BETH DITTO
- ASLEEP – THE SMITHS
- LOVIN’YOU – COLDABANK
- I’M GONNA FEEL EVER FEELIN’ IN THE BOOK TONITGHT- EZRA FURMAN
- ROAD TO NOWHERE – TALKING HEADS
- THE YODEL SONG – DR.HOOK & THE MEDICINE SHOW
- A KISS TO BUILD A DREAM ON – LOUIS ARMSTRONG
- NANCY DREW – SLOTFACE
- BREAKFAST IN BED – UB40, CHRISSIE HYNDE
- WHEN YOU’RE YOUNG AND IN LOVE – THE FLYING PICKETS
- (I CAN’T GET NO) SATISFACTION – DEVO
- LOVE REALLY HURTS WITHOUT YOU – BILLY OCEAN
- MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS – DELTA 5
- BLISTER IN THE SUN – VIOLENT FEMMES
- NEW SENSATION – INXS
- MORNING TRAIN (NINE TO FIVE) – SHEENA EASTON
- LIKE AN ANGEL – THE MIGHTY LEMON DROPS
- AIN’T NO LOVE IN THE HEART OF THE CITY – BOBBY BLAND
- HEAVEN – THE PSYCHEDELIC FURS
- BODY WAS MADE- EZRA FURMAN
- CAN I SLEEP IN YOUR BRAIN – EZRA FURMAN
- CHRISTIAN – CHINA CRISIS
- 40 DAYS IN KANSAS – EZRA FURMAN
- INFECTED (12” REMIX) – THE THE
- LO STREGONE (WITCH DOCTOR) – FRED BUSCAGLIONE
- WITNESS (1 HOPE) – ROOTS MANUVA
- AVE MARIA – VLADIMIR VAVILOV, CYNDIA QUINN
- WILD THING – TONE-LOC
- BABY TALKS DIRTY (REMASTERED) – THE KNACK
- THE GOOD BOOK (MELANIE) – EZRA FURMAN
- I’D’VE BAKED A CAKE (IF I KNEW YOU WERE COMING)- EILEEN BARTON
- I JUST WANT TO MAKE LOVE TO YOU- FOGHAT
- MY ZERO – EZRA FURMAN
- RESTLESS YEAR- EZRA FURMAN
- ORIGIN OF LOVE – JOHN CAMERON MITCHELL & MARGARET CHO? (from hedwig and the inch)
- RIVING DOWN TO LA- EZRA FURMAN
- AT THE BOTTOM OF THE OCEAN- EZRA FURMAN
- THE QUEEN OF HEARTS – EZRA FURMAN
- TIRED OF BEING ALONE – AL GREEN
- HEARD THE ANGELS MOAN – THE BLIND BOYS OF ALABAMA
- BOYS DON’T CRY (SINGLE VERSION) – THE CURE
- WALK RIGHT IN – THE ROOFTOP SINGERS? DR.HOOK & THE MEDICINE SHOW
- OLD TIME ROCK & ROLL – BOB SEGER & THE SILVER BULLET BAND
- HE HIT ME – GRIZZLY BEAR
- ROCKWROK – ULTRAVOX
- CRIMSON AND CLOVER – TOMMY JAMES & THE SHONDELLS
- LOVE MISSILE F1-11 (ULTRAVIOLENCE MIX?) – SIGUE SIGUE SPUTNIK
Header image via Sex Education on Netflix