The Music of Walking Dead Season 5: Brian Wilson’s ‘Love and Mercy’

By Brian Ives

Over the course of four-plus seasons, ‘The Walking Dead’ has used a wide range of music from artists that span nearly every genre and era including Bob Dylan, Motörhead, the Stanley Brothers, Sharon Van Etten, Wang Chung and Tom Waits, whose song “Hold On” was sung by cast member Emily Kinney. During the show’s fifth season, we’ll be talking with Thomas Golubic of SuperMusicVision, who helps choose the show’s music, to get the scoop on what you heard on the latest episode.

OK, breathe. Season five’s Walking Dead season finale was, as you’d expect, intense. There’s lots to digest.

Not the least of which is the nasty human survivors in the wilderness called the Wolves, who will likely be the big threat for at least a few weeks of season six (remember when we thought season five would be all about Terminus?). But like the Governor, and also like the feral-era Michonne, the Wolves have figured out a way to use walkers to their advantage. Unlike the Governor, or the denizens of Terminus, these guys seem not to care about having any kind of civilization, they’re more nihilistic than that.

Related: Norman Reedus Rocks: 5 Best Music Videos Featuring the ‘Walking Dead’ Star

Their back-of-a-canned-food-truck-walker-trap is maybe the most villainous thing we’ve seen so far in the zombie apocalypse, and we’ll be having nightmares about that one for the next few weeks. And it didn’t immediately occur to this writer to think about how whomever set the trap would get the walkers back in the trucks for repeated uses of said trap. But towards the end of the 90 minute episode, we figured out how they do it. The Wolves, knowing that the walkers are attracted by noise, play loud music, activated by remote control, in the trucks to draw them back in.

And what was that loud music? A cover of Beach Boy Brian Wilson‘s “Love and Mercy,” from his 1988 self-titled solo debut, perhaps his finest solo song. We’d have been impressed if you recognized the artist, especially as this song was recorded exclusively for The Walking Dead.

Thomas Golubic tells, “For our season finale, we found another custom music creation opportunity in the music playing from the walker booby-trap that the Wolves set-up. It’s a clever idea, and we wanted to put something unusual and surprising together which has been a running theme in season five. [Walking Dead writer/producer] Scott Gimple had the idea of doing a cover of ‘Love and Mercy,’ and we reached out to avant garde electronic artist Elizabeth Bernholz, who records under the artist name Gazelle Twin. Elizabeth is based in London and we worked together via Skype sessions.”

Wilson’s songs often cover a darkness under a bright and sweet exterior; Ms. Bernholz went right for that darkness. “The sunniness of Brian Wilson’s song dovetails so nicely with Elizabeth’s darker production aesthetic to create what we think is another compelling and surprising music moment to close the season finale.”



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