Black Flowers Blossom

Massive Attack’s gorgeous and haunting “Teardrop” is now widely and instantly recognizable as the “theme from House,” the only real shame of which is that the cut that plays over the opening credits drops Elizabeth Fraser’s reliably ethereal vocals.1 That aside, I’m not one to sniff in hipster disdain of something cool getting dispersed to the masses; I think it’s actually kind of wonderful that thousands of people who wouldn’t know trip-hop from trance have now spent years getting a weekly dose of high-quality downbeat electronica, even if the legacy of the entertainment it came with has proven to be a mixed blessing.2

Less well-known – by which I mean that I had no idea either until the other night – is that “Teardrop” has been given several worthy and interesting cover treatments. In particular, allow me to draw your eye and ear to this version by Jóse González, set to visuals that may be even more trippy and unsettling than the original.3 It’s a version I find to be powerful and beautiful in its own right, honoring the source material while not attempting to recreate it – qualities, IMHO, of most of the best covers. As a musician who can be  perhaps over-enthusiastic about adding songs I fall in love with to my performing repertoire, it’s a good thing to be reminded of – that the material should almost always be a vessel for the voice of the interpreter, and not the other way around.

(Hat-tip to Fred Clark of slacktivist for pointing to this, in case you want to know who to blame for your dreams tonight.)


1 Which, really, though I’m all for wide dissemination of all things Fraseran, Liz has shown every sign of caring sod-all about being ready for prime time. Witness the Cocteau Twins’ first appearance on American network television on The Tonight Show in the ’90s, performing “Bluebeard” – what surely counts as one of the more accessible and radio-friendly tunes in the CT catalogue – when she was unable to resist tormenting the vocals to “Carolyn’s Fingers” levels of abstraction.

2 I’m not quite up for going into much depth about my mixed feelings concerning House, MD, but for now suffice it to say that I’m glad to see that the trope of the Asshole Genius Antihero is showing signs of waning.

3 Which video featured a singing animatronic fetus, so consider yourself duly warned.


About Dan L-K

I write, I edit, I make music, I enthuse nerdily about nerdy things. View all posts by Dan L-K

5 responses to “Black Flowers Blossom

  • Amy

    I love that song.

    I have to second your thoughts about the show. I was never quite sure how I felt about it. I’m also over the whole life-basically-sucks-and-anything-good-you-find-you-will-end-up-losing plots. They feature heavily into any serial drama to the point that no one ever has a stable life. Really, I only ever watched House because I’ve never lost my fangirl crush on Robert Sean Leonard, and Wilson was by far my favorite character. He was, in my opinion, a far more realistic “flawed hero” than House.

  • Dan L-K

    It took me a while to realize I was done with it, because, hey, it was really awesome having Hugh Laurie star in a big American TV show, and whatever else you can say about it, he is actually very good at his job. And he and the rest of the cast were worth watching in spite of my growing misgivings.

    But it got to where I couldn’t ignore the aforementioned conflation of brilliance and douchebaggery, and the way the narrative went out of its way to validate all of the protag’s opinions and prejudices and make sure he got to be a special snowflake who could get away with anything (cf. Kit Whitfield’s observations on “Macho Sue”). And the philosophical underpinning of the show – the idea that compassion is antithetical to good medicine – is something I have huge problems with, for reasons that you may well imagine.

    (It’s possible that some of this got corrected for in the last couple of seasons. But I’d wandered off by then, long tired of waiting.)

  • Vishal

    I’ve watched all but the final season, and share your views on it, especially around season 5, when I seriously considered bailing. They don’t deviate from the formula much after that, but the writing of that formula is better in seasons six and seven. It’s still not a patch on season 1, when the plots were much more cerebral and less dramatic for the sake of a commercial break cliffhanger every seven minutes, but it was less irritating than the show had become in the middle years.

  • Amy

    “(It’s possible that some of this got corrected for in the last couple of seasons. But I’d wandered off by then, long tired of waiting.)”

    I didn’t find any of it corrected in the final season. Of course, your comment about compassion and good medicine being mutually exclusive (on television) is exactly why I always liked Wilson. He was absolutely brilliant, and House was always on him for being “too” compassionate. I was never able to tell whether we were supposed to agree with House, or whether Wilson was a subversion of the trope.

  • Dan L-K

    Well, part of the problem was that the show didn’t know either. I suspect the writers knew that Wilson was, in real-world terms, the better doctor, but couldn’t quite commit to that once they were locked in to the idea that this was a show centered on a genius who never needed to change. (For this and other reasons, I think Wilson, MD would’ve been a superior show in many respects. Alas.)

    But, as I say, I didn’t have the heart to see it through, and now that I’m hearing from people who did, I’m just as glad. Once you actually have someone you care about in the grip of a treatment-resistant condition requiring lots of compassionate medical attention, fiction about the non-compassionate kind starts to seriously lose its appeal.

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