Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The Wire: 'The Fall' (closing theme)

"Read between the lines"

- tagline for Season 5

Don't worry, no spoilers. I've only just seen the first two episodes, anyway. Listen to the track at the end of the post...

Hoover's been on my mind a bit lately, and it occurred to me that I left the band out of the previous post justifying The Wire's inclusion on this blog. Naturally, there's no direct or actual link (that I know of, anyway) but bear with me while I draw the connection. Starting with the image above, which is the long-running clip from The Wire's title sequence of police lights flashing in trickles of blood, with the colours changed to make it look somewhat reminiscent of the cover for Hoover's Lurid Traversal of Route 7.

To my mind, The Wire is the televisual equivalent of the dark, stupendous quality we have come to associate with the Hoover works. The Wire, too, has cult appeal which - however - has escaped the genre (crime) and achieved major media establishment acclaim. Neither of which, perhaps, has made it any more attractive to the average person, but at least it's getting recognition - and not only recognition, but interrogation - albeit of the critically positive kind.

It's probably grandiose to compare the Guardian, the Irish Times, Slate's belated love-fest over the final series of the TV show to my own scratchings on the topic of Hoover-related bands, but what the hell, I'll do it anyway. Over on Zen and the Art of Face Punching, I received a very nice compliment from another reader in the comments on the various attempts at description, eulogy and analysis that have made up the last 10 posts in that series. In jest I replied that I'd love to do a whole thesis on Hoover, from the perspective of post-hardcore as a movement in post-modern, post-materialist society (history and political science being my 'field' of study, so to speak). Nonsense, of course, but it ties in with the deep sense of meaning and art which I get from Hoover et al, and, The Wire.

At the end of every episode of The Wire, the screen goes black - it always feels far too soon - and the closing theme comes on. It's entitled 'The Fall' - post-lapsarian to our post-hardcore - and was composed by Blake Leyh, the show's music supervisor. Elsewhere, The Wire is packed full of interesting music, as befits its status as the most complex and realist show on television. There's the changing version's of Tom Wait's 'Way Down In The Hole', as mentioned before, that open the show; in cars and in houses, there is presumably carefully chosen music that reflects the characters - soul, r'n'b, hip-hop, country. It even works its way into the dialogue and action: like in the previous season, where assassins Chris and Snoop identify New York competitors in the drug dealing business by testing them on their knowledge of Baltimore club music; or where Bunny Colvin takes the corner kids out for a meal and has the Ella Fitzgerald in his car switched off in favour of rap music. Of course, that's just two examples.

But when it comes to making an artistic statement, it's that tune in the 'cold closing' of the show, in those half-unexpected moments of silence and emptiness, which hits the hardest. Nothing, and then the faint rattle of percussion, gradually growing louder and then joined, softly, with strings which are simultaneously stirring and mournful. It's flexible, rhythmic, and above all a little dubby: it always reminds me a little of 'Electrolux' or 'Regulator Watts', though of course to listen to those songs straight away destroys the illusion. In actual fact, in terms of space and cymbal-tapping awesomeness, it's quite like 'Cuts Like Drugs'. And the real, jazzy, soul- but also angst-filled version wouldn't be too out of place on Movin' Out by the Boom - a connection I made previously with 'Way Down In The Hole', which is however the stronger, brasher track of the episode opener/closer pair - while 'The Fall' is more meditative, slithering, ominous and thus, a little bit more Hoover-like:

The Fall (Theme From THE WIRE) - Blake Leyh


josephlovesit said...

Excellent post. I really enjoy reading comparisons like this, especially when there's a lot of subtlety to them.

Back when I first started watching The Wire around this time last year, I was working a full-time job where I could listen to my iPod. So when I was amidst a season of the show, I would be in work craving it. All I could do to counteract that feeling was listen to this Clipse mixtape that sampled "The Fall" on the Intro and Outro. There was also scant reference made to the show in their lyrics. I uploaded the Outro here, in case you want to hear it. "Outro"

If you haven't all ready read them, I think you might enjoy these articles about The Wire's opening title sequences. Each season has its own writeup and the links are conveniently collected here.

gabbagabbahey said...

thanks, Joseph. I enjoy making these comparisons up in my head; all part of the interconnectedness of the world.

I listened to that clip, and a) the beat and the bass in the theme sample works so well in that context, while b) "as you know, all good things must come to an end" is exactly the way I feel when the closing sequence comes on.

I haven't read those articles, thanks for the link. There's such a volume of criticism about the Wire, really, (and I'm happy to add my bit too)

David said...

hey gabba!
Just read your awesome post when I started to wonder....have you seen all of The Wire yet?

gabbagabbahey said...

"I've only just seen the first two episodes, anyway."

Everything up until the second episode of the fifth season. Third episode I'll see tomorrow night (Monday)

David said...

haha sorry man, had a little too much to drink last night. Your in for quite a ride with this season. It's a shame they didnt go further, however, Generation Kill has re-ignited my faith in TV

Jared Dillon said...

nice write up about the ...Who Calls So Loud record. probably in my top three hardcore releases of the year and this has been one hell of a year for hardcore. reminds me of 05.

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