Alan Ball was known for his masterful use of music in Six Feet Under. He's lost none of his touch when it comes to his current HBO series, True Blood -- which happens to be set in the Louisiana swamps, not terribly far from Houston.
This week's song is pretty damn awful.
CTRL + Z. The song itself is fine. "Burning Down the House" may not be the best Talking Heads song ever (Here's the test. Was the song in question on Little Creatures? No? Not the best Talking Heads song ever), but it's still a pretty damn good pop track that has stood the test of time over the years. However, Alan Ball did not choose to use the Talking Heads' original, and instead chose to end this week's episode of the same name as the song with a rendition by the Used.
The Used is a band who we literally can't read through their Wikipedia entry without rolling our eyes to the point of dizziness. We're long since past the point where the fact that a band spent some time broke or homeless impresses us. Scott Stapp and Rob Thomas lived out of their cars, too, for a while. Doesn't improve the taste of their vintage, though Thomas ain't bad for $3 merlot.
That's just a personal beef from one musician to another, though. What ruins their song is the Used's hackneyed attempt to harness the groundbreaking music of the Talking Heads into creating their own new genre called gross pop. Gross pop, by the by, is apparently defined by bringing a messy rock sound into pop. Most of us are more familiar with this genre from the name of "Every Top 40 Metal Song of the '80s," and the only thing that makes what the Used is doing different from every other piece of emo out there is the shot of industrial they add like a malcontented waiter adding spit to your Kahlua.
The end result was featured on the Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen soundtrack, and if that doesn't define everything that is wrong with it for you, then our gauging of Houston Press's demographic is way, way off. Their cover is harsh without edge, rage without technique, and chaos without freedom. It's the sound of a person who can't take a punch, but who loves to watch MMA.
Ironically, it may be perfect for the episode, though that depends on whether or not Alan Ball is trying for Hollywood or just fucking with us. He made American Beauty, so we're hopeful it's the latter.
This season of True Blood has dealt with what is coming to be an all-out war between magical factions. Witches have the ability to ensnare vampires with necromancy, vampires have attempted to pre-emptively strike against them with about as much success as the underwear bomber, and the werewolf and shapeshifter communities are slowly being drawn in as well. It's like the ending of The Hobbit, but, you know, with titties and the word "fuck."
We're gearing up for the final battle, and we mean gearing up literally. The episode ends with Vampire Bill, Eric, Jessica and Pam exiting an unmarked black van armed to the fangs with rocket launchers and full-automatic weapons ready to invade the witch stronghold at the local boogity boogity store. (The author has a prize for anyone who explains the reference in the comments.)
The scene looks like it came right out of the Charlie's Angels film, or, more accurately, like the heist scene in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. Here's where we think Ball is either a genius or completely out to lunch. The whole thing has all the feel and logic of big-budget Hollywood. Black leather, pretty protagonists, big guns, the works. If Jason Statham was the star, you would know how this would all end, no matter how freakin' improbable.
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That's the key word, improbable. See, the vampires have repeatedly gotten their asses handed to them time and time again by the witches. We have literally seen more even matches between children and grown people. Part of that seems to be the typical vampiric arrogance against other races. They recognize a threat, but are completely unable to deal with it as equals. Kind of like, oh, we don't know, America.
So we're thinking Ball took the stupid setup of the typical blockbuster, added the stupid soundtrack of said blockbuster, and the next episode will feature yet another defeat for the immortals. Either that, or he just said, "Fuck it, let's show them that I have the kind of brain damage that will put me in control of a Voltron movie." We've only got two episodes left, and we're sure we'll see which of the two it is.
Remember, kids, the key to avant garde is knowing who is fucking with whom.
Be sure to visit the Loving True Blood in Dallas blog, where Jef With One F will be a semi-regular contributor to the podcast this season.