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The Handsome Family scores HBO's 'True Detective' with death dirge

January 14, 2014|By Randall Roberts | Los Angeles Times Pop Music Critic
  • The Handsome Family's Rennie and Brett Sparks, whose "Far From Any Home" opens the new HBO series "True Detective."
The Handsome Family's Rennie and Brett Sparks, whose "Far From… (The Handsome Family / Jason…)

Few placements in music are as coveted as an opening credits slot on an HBO series, especially one as high profile as "True Detective." The new series stars Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson as cops trying to solve a series of ritualized murders, so it stands to reason that producers selected the Handsome Family and its song "Far From Any Road." 

Birthed in Chicago by the wife-husband team of Rennie and Brett Sparks, the Family has so many lyrical dead bodies in its past that listing them in a single paragraph adds up to a pretty serious indictment. No wonder the duo relocated to  Albuquerque. 

Rennie, who writes many of the duo's songs, has killed fictional swans with stones and snakes with sharpened sticks, has dragged dogs off in floods. She's shot a brother five times in the back, carried "poor, poor Lenore" away by crows, imagined Amelia Earhart's last moments, expired two lovers by double suicide in "Down in the Valley of Hollow Logs," drowned a man named Michael in the ocean, killed a beautiful wife with one blade and a cancer victim with another (the latter by her own hand -- with a pen knife). 

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Sylvia? She fared pretty well in the band's hands, relatively speaking. The star of the song "Caterpillars" (from the group's 2013 album "Wilderness") can be found dangling "deep within uncharted jungle where giant caterpillars crawl/They spun their silk around her, a cocoon beneath the trees/And still she hangs there swaying, deep within the dripping leaves." 

For its part, "Far From Any Road," which opens each episode of "True Detective," features a dead body "hidden in the branches of poison creosote." A funereal dirge featuring Brett's gorgeous baritone, the song offers texture that bleeds into the series itself. Watch the opening sequence below. 


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