In the Song of Ice and Fire series of books and HBO’s TV adaptation of them, Game of Thrones, lots of growly-voiced men drink heavily, often while talking about the macabre. On THE NATIONAL'S albums, a growly-voiced man sings about drinking heavily and presents us with humane, yet macabre, lyrics. It seems like a natural fit, then, for the band to do a version of an in-text song called “The Rains of Castamere” for the soundtrack to the show. It's the best unexpected soundtrack feature since Jarvis Cocker was in a Harry Potter movie. And, as an added plus, it doesn’t involve any incest whatsoever!
The song is featured in the books at a few pivotal moments, and its story within details the defeat of House Reyne, a rebellious sect, by Tywin Lannister, patriarch of the House of Lannister. I’m assuming the band saw the vaguely Brechtian lyrics* (“In a coat of gold or a coat of red/A lion still has claws”) and accompanied them in a similar fashion. It’s somber, fearsome, and utterly evocative of the show’s best moments while maintaining aspects of the vibe that the band has worked so hard to create. In fact, the most surprising thing about the song itself is that you can’t hear Sean Bean dying in it, which, as you know, seems to accompany anything that once had his name attached to it.
The nerdy music gauntlet has been thrown down, with this and their song last year for the video game Portal 2. What are you gonna do about this, Jonathan Coulton? You got a bunch of dudes stepping on your turf who haven’t earned your respect. I call for a geeky-band cage match with weaponry used in Game of Thrones placed in the center of the ring. Hell, HBO could even broadcast it, and I’m sure the fight ratings would be much better than Girls', anyways.
(*I’m totally for a Matt Berninger version of “Mack the Knife,” done in the style that Brecht and Weill intended for their first stage productions of The Threepenny Opera. Talk about a great meeting of style and substance!
Nick Johnston is the brand new summer music intern here at the Boston Phoenix. He just wrapped up a solid first week, and as a result, earned himself a three-day weekend.