History suggests that vampires and pop go together like fanged teeth and pasty faces. Before Bauhaus was moaning about “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” in the 80s, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins eerily rose of a coffin on stage in the mid-50s to put a spell on you. More recently the Twilight series and its accompanying albums put a fresh splatter on the genre, adding substantial bucks into their blood bank along the way.
Since this is volume four from the ongoing HBO series—released not coincidentally before season five’s premiere– it’s clear there is more money to be sucked out of the concept. Thankfully, this set is as artfully and intelligently constructed as the previous three even if it follows the same basic blueprint. Take a few aging classic rockers (the Animals’ Eric Burden and Iggy Pop, both looking suitably ghoulish these days), add some high profile contemporary acts (the Flaming Lips, My Morning Jacket, Alabama Shakes), sprinkle in a pair of appropriately edgy classic blues stars (hello Howlin’ Wolf and Koko Taylor), inject cool and relatively obscure newbies for hipster cred (Warpaint, Mobley, Bosco Delrey) and let fly. As fans know, most of the episodes are named after songs. Many of those appear here and most are not easily available on other albums.
The fun is in the listening as Mobley transforms the Beatles’ once bouncy “I Want to be Your Man” into something ominous and creepy with a blues riff the Black Keys would kill for; The Heavy find the balance between dark soul and rugged funk on their “What Makes a Good Man?”; My Morning Jacket turns in an adequate cover of the Byrds’ version of “Turn Turn Turn” and Los Lobos finds the weirdness and evil in the American songbook entry “We’ll Meet Again,” previously a 40’s era pop trifle.
You don’t have to be a fan of the show to appreciate the performances, which is ultimately the judge of these compilations’ success. Despite its obvious commercial intentions, this diverse, artful and intelligently assembled set should get anyone’s blood flowing.