In ‘True Blood’ premiere, music succeeds where writers fail | WBEZ
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Jim DeRogatis

Neko and Nick don’t suck, but 'True Blood' kinda does

Throughout its first three seasons, as it pushed the envelope on camping and vamping ever further, HBO’s “True Blood” was a delightfully over-the-top guilty pleasure. Like many a jonesing fangbanger, I eagerly awaited Sunday night’s fourth-season premiere. Unfortunately, the best thing about it was the music that rolled over the closing credits.

As earlier touted in numerous blogs, the show’s consistently inventive music programmers tapped alt-country sweetheart Neko Case and the Bad Seeds’ prince of darkness Nick Cave to do a new duet recording of first-wave Brit-poppers the Zombies’ classic 1964 hit “She’s Not There” for an episode with the same title.

“You always want to serve the show, but in the back of my mind I’m always thinking about the soundtrack,” music supervisor Gary Calamar told Billboard. The script originally called for Santana’s cover of the tune. But “the key to a good soundtrack is having fresh recordings.”

Case and Cave toured together a decade ago, including a phenomenal show at the Chicago Theatre in April 2002, and much like the modern Nancy Sinatra/Lee Hazelwood or Jane Birkin/Serge Gainsbourg pairing of Isobel Campell and Mark Lanegan, they brought just the right amount of sweet and sour, innocence and evil to their rendition of an already slightly creepy tune, with Neko’s gorgeous cooing nicely contrasting with Cave’s especially menacing growl.

As for the season opener, was it just me, or was just about every twist the writers and producers set up for the weeks to come a huge disappointment? Sookie threatened by evil fairies, Bill becoming a politician, Jason suddenly serving as the responsible one instead of the inept comic relief, Tara remaking herself as a lesbian boxer, Sam running with a band of horses while his annoying brother is kept by Hoyt’s mom… Jeez, all of these story lines seem intensely unpromising, fueling fears that the show really jumped the shark when it killed off Michelle Forbes’ maenad (thereby freeing her up to help drag down “The Killing”).

Oh, well: We have Neko and Nick. And their tribute to the gang in Bon Temps sure beats Snoop Dogg’s.

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