Monday, 8 September 2008

review of The Wire theme tunes

Season 1 (Blind Brothers of Alabama): This is probably the most country version of the song, using the soulful gospel harmonies and harmonicas of the Blind Boys of Alabama. This is the best sung version, the most inspirational. There's quite a reverential religious tinge to this one that isn't present in the later seasons.

Season 2 (Tom Waits): The original free jazz freakish version of the tune. Tom Waits growls his way through the tune, sounding like the Devil Jesus will save you from. This is as whisky-soaked as the stevedores working the ports in the series, a more boozy and desperate version, there is space in the song that works amply for the minimalism of the series. Where the music drops out for a pregnant second before the police siren blares one horn is beautiful. The definitive version.

Season 3 (The Neville Brothers): Over a nice hi-hat jazz drum and metallic percussions, with more ambient noises from the show, this is probably the one I skipped through the most. The main vocal doesn't sit right over the great music, which is more foreboding than the Blind Boys of Alabama version it is closest to. The jazz solo at the end is a nice touch but this is the most forgettable of the versions.

Season 4 (DoMaJe): Actually my favourite version. The flat emotionless female vocal, the great soul guitar solo at the end and the rnb-ish music all lends itself well to the theme, fitting in the closest with the theme of the season, which is youth and their arc.

Season 5: (Steve Earle): My least favourite version, though it carries the best trivia. The musician that recorded this one is actually Wayland, Bubbles' NA sponsor. It sounds so generic, elevator-ish and Jack Johnson, it's an insult to the final season of the greatest show on earth. Not good at all. Ruination. Why no Bodymore artists never sampled this and did an Outkast-esque half-sung half-rapped version is beyond me.

From wikipedia:
The opening theme is "Way Down in the Hole", a gospel-and-blues-inspired song originally written by Tom Waits for his 1987 album Franks Wild Years. Each season uses a different recording of it against a different opening sequence, with the theme being performed, in order, by The Blind Boys of Alabama, Waits, and The Neville Brothers. Season four's version of "Way Down in the Hole" was arranged and recorded specifically for the show, and is performed by a group called "DoMaJe", made up of five Baltimore teenagers: Ivan Ashford, Markel Steele, Cameron Brown, Tariq Al-Sabir, and Avery Bargasse. Steve Earle will be performing the theme song for Season 5. The closing theme is "The Fall", composed by Blake Leyh, who is also the show's music supervisor.

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