Review: Vinyl Pilot (★★★★★)

5 stars

From the trailers alone, I knew Vinyl was going to be Martin Scorsese’s take on the music industry and that’s exactly what it is. If that doesn’t sell this show enough, the music underlying the show is absolute gold. The way it incorporates music not only fits perfectly, it also frames how the show looks and feels. This is a story of sex, drugs and rock and roll that looks at the world through the rose-tinted glasses of the songs that defined the period. If you are in any way a fan of music, go and watch this show right now.

The feel of the show is very Scorsese. As far as plot goes, it follows Richie Finestra, a record executive in the 1970’s, as his label is falling to pieces. So far that’s all the show has let out but if you watched The Wolf of Wall Street, you know exactly the sort of lifestyle this character leads.

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Bobby Cannavale does a fantastic job of giving us a character that not only lives the luxurious lifestyle but is also deeply troubled. You get a sense of how much he has been wrapped up in the industry, which has turned him away from the reason he started producing records in the first place; the music. The show also has a number of side plots that embellish the world by showing you other elements of what’s happening at the time. We follow an assistant as she tries to push a local punk band and we also get flashbacks to Richie’s past dealing with early rock and roll and the blues. These never detract from the main plot as all these characters are woven so neatly.

If there is one thing that Vinyl absolutely nails, it’s the music. The way in which it is laced throughout not only provides a stellar soundtrack but it breaks down ideas and dreams the characters have. One scene that stood out, in particular, was the scene where Richie meets up with Led Zeppelin to negotiate signing them. The deal falls flat, only for the band to take the stage and play a song that I didn’t recognise. It was here when I thought, ‘Gee, it’s a shame they couldn’t get Zeppelin to agree to include their music’, only to have my thought interrupted as an all too familiar riff fades in. We see Robert Plant captivating the audience as the song takes over, only to look back to Richie who is stood there watching them slip through his fingers. The look on his face is one not only of disappointment but one of absolute pain. You really get the sense that the floor is falling from beneath his feet. It’s truly special.

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The show is incredibly stylised and it only enhances every element of the show. With all the drugs and alcohol, the show slips into elements of magic realism which fit beautifully to capture how the music must have made you feel at the time. This is particularly prominent at the end of the episode where what happens can be taken in two ways. You can think it actually happened and that it was stupid, or you can look at it for what it represents and see some of the true genius behind this show.

In classic Scorsese fashion, the show is also incredibly brutal. Despite the shows incredible highs, it also takes you to the dark recesses of the industry. Imagine the Quaaludes scene from Wolf of Wall Street, but scary. Sure these moments have their humour but the state these people get themselves in is all too real; being performed to a tee such that you genuinely fear for the characters.

The first two episodes aired simultaneously, adding up to a whopping 2-hour premiere. After that alone, the show has been renewed for a second season. With such a strong start, I hope that the show continues to shine as bright as it has so far. Despite the fact that, so far, Scorsese will only direct and write the pilot, I feel it’s too early to really predict how this show will continue. But if it does happen to go downhill, you still have a 2-hour Scorsese take on the music industry and it’s absolutely glorious.

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