Our favorite things this week include "Breaking Bad," Boys Noize and "The Terror."
Bad Music: I, like many Americans, plopped on the couch to clench my teeth and cover my eyes through the final hurrah of Breaking Bad, the country's new favorite pastime. While the meth-riddled series is renowned for its outstanding acting, clever storytelling and obnoxiously satisfying WTF moments, the aspect of the show that always catches me by surprise is its music. Even in an episode like this week's, which (no spoilers) featured some of the shows most thrilling moments, time was set aside for yet another music montage. This time it was "Take My True Love By the Hand," a track from '60s group The Limeliters. The song fit perfectly with the scene and the narrative, as if it was some kind of Greek chorus guiding the play.
It's a technique used throughout the series, and each time, the choice is unexpected if not unknown, but obviously perfect in context. Though the show likes to draw from farther back in the 20th Century, a few modem tracks found their way in at the show's darkest moments, including one of TV on the Radio's best and most ominous tracks, "DLZ," and the grim "If I Had a Heart" from Fever Ray. Perhaps the series' best use of music is a season 5 episode in which Tommy James and the Shondells' "Crystal Blue Persuasion" plays as Walter White cooks his signature blue meth. The music in Breaking Bad is one of its most essential elements. For a show that could easily rest on the laurels of its vast achievements in other categories, Breaking Bad takes its story to another level through its music choices — and teaches some of us young folks about golden oldies. (Brian Sibile)
A Public Service: I like Voodoo artist Boys Noize's arena rock version of EDM and am looking forward to the set, but I was disappointed when I downloaded its new app, BNR Error. There was no music associated with it. Still, I'm entertained by its freak version of Instagram, with filters that pixilate and distort photos instead of tinting them. Now your straight friends can have a high experience without having to take all those pesky drugs. (Rawls)
Coming to Grips with The Terror: I have a shelf of CDs that I have/had good intentions to review and another dozen on my hard drive. Unfortunately, reviews are time consuming, so I don't get to some of them in a timely fashion, and some I won't get to at all. The Flaming Lips' The Terror has sat like a beacon on that shelf because it struck me as part of an effort on the part of the band to reclaim itself. The Soft Bulletin, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, "Do You Realize??" and the space ball are only parts of The Flaming Lips' story, which has always had an aggressive, confrontational, unsettling component as well. The warm fuzzes had come to dominate how people think of them (even when singing obsessively about death), and The Terror attempts to reset the balance. Many of the songs have lovely, inviting melodies, but instead of giving them the epic synth strings of "The Race for the Prize" or "Do You Realize??," icy, industrial textures keep listeners from getting too close too easily.
When I hear The Terror and The Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends, I hear a band that considers unpredictability a core characteristic that had to be restored to their identity. The irony is that The Soft Bulletin, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, and walking on the crowd in the space ball every night for years made being unpredictable possible. (Alex Rawls)