The Music of HBO's True Blood, Episode 1.6: Making the Two-Backed Beast to Cat Power

Alan Ball was known for his masterful use of music in Six Feet Under. He's lost none of his touch when it comes to his current HBO series, True Blood - which happens to be set in the Louisiana swamps, not terribly far from Houston. With Season 2 just completed, Rocks Off is now working our way backwards through the episodes we missed as HBO begins reruns.

Episode 1.6, "Cold Ground"

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Have you ever noticed that no one on television loses their virginity in silence? Are we the only one whose first sexual experience soundtrack was the sound of the dog licking itself under the bed? To judge by TV, everyone sets up their stereo to bring this pivotal, life-changing event to its utmost apex. If we had done it, though, we'd follow Sookie Stackhouse's lead and used"Half of You" by one of my favorite train wrecks, Cat Power.

Born Chan Marshall in Atlanta, Ga., Cat started playing music simply as an excuse to hang out with all her musician friends, drink and do a nice amount of drugs. After a move to New York, Cat's bizarre and often highly improvisational shows - one set consisted solely of her singing the word "no" for 15 minutes accompanied by a two-string guitar - drew her to the interest of Liz Phair and Steve Shelley of Sonic Youth.

Shelley became a kind of mentor to Cat and played on her debut album. She gained a following, but quit touring after her third album, disapearing to work as a babysitter in Portland. A nightmare and a sleepless night restarted her songwriting. A severe drinking problem made her shows erratic and full of rambling confessions, but she continues to slowly claw up as a passionate indie artist.

"Half of You" is a perfect slice of her work, full of sparse arrangement and her trademark breathy vocals, as sad as it is sweet. The sparsity of the notes makes each one leave a mark and a ripple in your conciouness. It is, in fact, the perfect soundtrack for Sookie's first time in Episode 6 "Cold Ground."

Sookie's telepathic powers are enhanced by physical contact. Touching another person makes it almost impossible for her to not hear their thoughts. You might think that this would make sex great, but pay attention to your own thoughts for a second next time you make the two-backed beast, and you should be able to see the kind of buzzkill it would be if your mental babbling was transmistted live to your partner... or partners.

This is the reason for Sookie's initial attraction to vampire Bill Compton. She can't hear his thoughts, and thus his touch is met with that wonderful thing... silence. So why not set up the loss of your virginity to "Half of You"? If there has ever been a better example of something so empty and so full at the same time, we haven't heard it yet.

True Blood airs Saturdays at 8 p.m. on HBO2.

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