The Music of ‘Walking Dead’ Season 4: The Mountain Goats – ‘Up The Wolves’

By Brian Ives

Over the course of nearly four full seasons, ‘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. For the remainder of the show’s fourth season, we’ll be talking with the folks from MusicSuperVision, who help choose the show’s music, to get the scoop on what you heard last night. 

Last night (March 2), you may have been curled up on your couch last night watching Hollywood’s biggest stars strut their stuff down the red carpet at the 86th Annual Academy Awards, but in the world of “The Walking Dead” it was business as usual, with our anti-heroes trying to avoid certain death at the jaws of the “walkers.”

Last night’s episode, titled “Still,” focused solely on Daryl (Norman Reedus) and Beth (Emily Kinney), who like the rest of the cast, are on their own with no idea if the rest of their friends (and in Beth’s case, her sister) are alive or dead.

Daryl and Beth make a rather odd pair. She was brought up in a nice home, daughter to a veterinarian (the much beloved Hershel Greene, RIP), while Daryl spent most of his time following his brother Merle around: “Some redneck a*****e with an even bigger a*****e for a brother,” as he described in last night’s episode. This differences factored heavily into last night’s story.

Daryl seems to accept their reality. Everyone they’ve known and loved are probably dead, and even if they’re not, odds are stacked against any kind of reunion. Beth doesn’t accept this, doesn’t want to give up hope, and most of all, doesn’t want to give up living. She announces that she wants to have “a damn drink,” since she’d never tried alcohol (her dad was an alcoholic).

So they begin a quest for booze, leading to a bar at a golf resort. Beth didn’t need Daryl to rescue her from a walker — she’s turned out to be pretty tough — but he did save her from having peach Schnapps as her first taste of liquor. With just moments before her first taste, Daryl smashed the bottle, determined to find her a better alternative. That led to a backwoods distillery where they tried the local moonshine, leading to an ill-advised game of “Never Have I Ever” where each made guesses at the others past. After they come to terms with each other, and realize how each needs to change to survive in the post-prison world, they decide to burn down the distillery as a f— you to their pasts, sealing the deal by giving the finger to the building as it burned.

And that’s when we heard the first music placement on the show since the beginning of this half-season. Indie-folk group the Mountain Goats’ “Up The Wolves,” was the soundtrack to their pyromania. The song was originally released on the Mountain Goats’ 2005 album The Sunset Tree “There’s bound to be a ghost at the back of your closet/ no matter where you live,” frontman John Darnielle sings. “There’ll always be a few things, maybe several things/ that you’re going to find really difficult to forgive.”  That seemed to sum up what each character needed to accept to move on.

~

Garrett McElver, from SuperMusicVision, the show’s music supervisors, tells Radio.com that “‘Up The Wolves’ is a song that show-runner Scott Gimple had been listening to when writing the episode, and he felt intuitively that it would work well to close the episode. Daryl and Beth burn down the distillery as an act of defiance, almost teenage defiance, and this song captures the spirit of flipping the bird to authority.”

The Mountain Goats, aka John Darnielle, didn’t flip the bird to “Walking Dead” though: he tweeted “watching the house burst into flames as @erikfriedlander’s cello snaked through the open spaces kinda ruled I gotta say.”

Check back next Monday morning for our music recap of the next episode, titled “Alone.”

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