SOME MORE DARK LYRICAL LITERARY MASTERPIECES
by Bo Chappell
A while back here on Kendall Reviews, I compiled a list of a few choice horror songs and wrote about what makes them so bloody fantastic. Gavin was such a fan of that article, he asked me to do another.
And I got right on it.
And here we are, you and I (and Gavin!), for another fun, implicit list of musical compositions that, while may seem innocent at first, can bear the sharpest teeth.
I don’t think there’s any need to change the previous rules either. No songs written specifically for Halloween (Monster Mash), no horror movie soundtrack inspirations (Ghostbusters), no musicals (The Rocky Horror Picture Show), and certainly not scores (John Carpenter’s anything). Also, to ensure variety, no double-dipping from artists…and no slowed down covers.
We’ve all had enough of the “subtlety”.
In no particular order (trust me this time)…
Christmas is that time of the year when family, friends, and even complete strangers come together to overlook their differences, set aside their anger and give to one another in the hopes that a better season will lead to the next.
POSSUM KINGDOM, on the other hand, is about the ghost of a dead cult member wanting someone to join him in the higher plane of existence he just burned himself alive to reach.
FA, LALA, LA LA, LA LA, LA, LA!
Though the lyrics and accompanying music video hint at a killer obsessed with a beauty…
“So help me!
Be my angel
Be my angel
Do you wanna die?
I promise you
I will treat you well
My sweet angel
So help me, Jesus”
…the story is deeper and more profound. Intended as a sequel of sorts to their song “I Burn” (a song about cult members using immolation to ascend), this song goes on to tell the story of one member’s ghost in search of someone to keep him company…by joining him in death.
The Possum Kingdom is a local nickname for a reservoir on the Brazos River located in Palo Pinto, Texas, which just happens to be the home state of the band.
I guess you could call it a “local haunt”. Eh? Yeah, I expected better as well.
Again, the video is as ominous as the song, but…well, I’ll let you see how it plays out.
WOLF LIKE ME
TV On The Radio
From an album called Return to Cookie Mountain, you might be surprised to find a werewolf song.
Moles? Sure. Yoshi? Possibly. But werewolves?
And yet, the first single off the 2006 album is a heart-pumping tune, with the singer expressing details about the moonlit curse he carries. Not only that, he wants to “transfer his tragedy” to someone, trying to convince her that as messy and mind-altering as the experience can be, it’s one that can be euphoric.
Haha. Like doing it. Am I right?
Then the song slows down, but the passion stays, lingering in the moonlight:
“Dream me, oh dreamer
Down to the floor
Open my hands and let them
Weave onto yours
Feel me, completer
Down to my core
Open my heart and let it
Bleed onto yours
Feeding on fever
Down all fours
Show you what all that
Howl is for”
Oh…like doing it.
Yes. What better example to represent the overwhelming sexual urges humans have for one another than lycanthropy?
“Where do babies come from?”
With that, the full moon sheds some light of past lyrics:
“Got a curse I cannot lift
Shines when the sunset shifts
When the moon is round and full
Gotta bust that box, gotta gut that fish”
A little on the vagina, but okay. Nose. I meant nose. What did I say?
The song blurs the fine line that defines the difference between “making love” and “f**king” until only ecstasy remains, running the entire sexual spectrum all the way through survival, instinct, intimacy, bonding, love, and even well being.
Or perhaps all at once.
Take these two for example.
It’s the thing we come to terms with in our own way, defining whether or not the act of sex is a damning, sinful one or a means to “be alive” and express the feelings words cannot. What better example is there to illustrate the complexity of sex than an uncontrollable transformation to basic instincts brought on in the presence of beauty and wonderment?
To the moon and back…
And if you have a love of B-Movies and silent films, then the music video doesn’t disappoint:
Be Your Own Pet
This one is a speedy bit of simple fun. A lot of songs by Be Your Own Pet usually are because they have an affinity for two things. Punk rock and B movies.
Check them out causing trouble in “Bicycle Bicycle, You Are My Bicycle” for some 50’s biker action. Not a joke. Look it up. It’s great.
Off that same self-titled album, you’ll find our next entry. If you know your horror quotes, you’ll know what inspired it:
“They haunt the streets with their eyes full of hunger
Spreading disease and death to one another
There’s no stopping till it gets too late
Zombie apocalypse will change us all now
When there’s no more room in hell
The dead walk the earth
Feeding up the night when we’re together
When they trying hard to get us in the end”
You got it!
Yeppers. It’s a punk rock zombie song inspired by none other than George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead. The song bites off all the fun and kinetic energy of the film and spits it back at you with gusto.
A tradition as old as time itself.
With this group, you’re always going to have a fun time because nothing is serious, not even a zombie apocalypse (Read the song title again). It even couples well with the original Night of the Living Dead. Take a look/listen.
DOWN IN THE PARK
I don’t know about you, but I find a little science fiction in my horror to be a welcome addition.
Most of the time
It’s also hard to argue that no one was more ahead of the curve musically than Gary Numan.
Vince Noir understood.
Gary Numan was tackling themes and genres years, even decades before others. I mean, who else in 1979 is writing new wave/ synth songs about dystopian futures where man and machine co-exist? Well, I say co-exist, but:
“Oh look there’s a rape machine
I’d go outside if he’d look the other way
You wouldn’t believe
The things they do”
Welcome to a future where humans are hunted, raped, and killed by androids with human skin (Machmen) and machines (designed specifically to rape, mind you) for entertainment purposes.
I mean, I get you can watch The Office only so many times before it gets a bit boring, but holy hell.
But don’t worry. Seinfeld is coming to holo-streaming soon.
And this is such a common occurrence, it’s spectated in open parks while people dine.
“Come to ‘Zom-Zom’s’, a place to eat
Like it was built in one day
You can watch the humans
Trying to run”
“I will NOT have what he’s having.”
This is a DARK song, inspired by the works of Phillip K. Dick. Hope doth not shine in this cyberpunk tale. While I can appreciate some of the covers of this song (The Foo Fighters one is pretty decent), they all take away the scariest thing about the song. The tone.
“Down in the park
Where the chant is ‘death, death, death’
Until the sun cries morning
Down in the park with friends of mine
We are not lovers
We are not romantics
We are here to serve you
A different face but the words never change”
With lyrics like these, only the cold, laid back, unforgiving, uncaring synthetic tones of Gary’s instruments telegraph to us that something once horrific has reached a point where it’s okay to watch while enjoying your meal.
Ideas like that scare the shit out of me, and they’re usually not far fetched.
Okay. Let’s get one thing out of the way. Starcrawler is the blood spewing, loud, dirty, theatrical side of rock and roll that was pioneered by acts like Black Sabbath, Alice Cooper, and Kiss.
I am not exaggerating.
Catching high praise from Shirley Manson (of Garbage) and The Foo Fighters (who they eventually opened for), Starcrawler tends to give off the musical vibe of “You look a little lost.”
You know the one I’m talking about.
Cue the grungy, dragging elements of “CHICKEN WOMAN”, and you’re instantly transported into some southern horror.
“There’s an empty road
That walked up on my legs
And a chicken woman is pushing cops down the way
Then lead them back
Safe under the floor
And a chicken woman as I head out the door”
I know she’s probably not singing about this one, but I’m almost as scared.
This song knows how to do two things:
- Transport you to a place covered in filth, abandonment, and fear.
Like a Rob Zombie movie.
- It knows how to pace itself.
Unlike a Rob Zombie Movie.
Even the music video will immediately give you the Texas Chainsaw Massacre vibes, and by listening to the song, you know that’s exactly what they want.
REDUCED TO TEETH
Like several of the bands I have talked about, Finch has a talent for regularly mixing the macabre into music.
On purpose though.
They have produced many songs harboring undertones of horror, from “WORMS OF THE EARTH” to “PLAY DEAD”. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise my next choice is from an album (Say Hello To Sunshine) laden with references to Edgar Allen Poe, swirled in a sea of surrealism.
“REDUCED TO TEETH” is a musical retelling of Poe’s short “Berenice”. In that story, a man suffers from an obsessive fixation on objects. In this case, it’s teeth.
More specifically, his future wife’s (and always cousin’s) teeth. Incisor? Incest? Incesor?
🎶I think we’re alone now🎶
Anyway, this fixation grows worse when, after years of suffering a degenerative disease, only her teeth remain healthy. It isn’t long before this guy is thinking about holding her teeth and inspecting them from every conceivable angle. He even starts losing time in gaps, slipping in and out of consciousness.
“Hahaha, isn’t this wacky? I’m wacky. WE’RE wacky. I lov– no. Hold still. I’m not done.”
Welp, Berenice up and dies eventually, so problem solved, right?
The lyrics reflect the fears and motivations of uncontrollable obsession once thought cured by his wife’s passing:
“Behind a mask, a man can bask only
For so long before being exposed
To the sun
The moon is up, a whisper of
‘Till death do you wrong’
Patients bother a patient doctor
Plastics itch, and bandages the
Aftermath won’t add up to this.
The fever breaks
It would take a masochist
To live like this
I buried my wife today
Restitution for my sanity
Chasing demons dressed like me
Their eyes are not like mine
Ignorance is divine
Instincts are reduced to teeth
That bite the hand that feeds
Fear thy father love thy martyr”
The song and story go on to showcase the mental demise of a man who has to unwillingly give in to his own demands in order to satiate an unwanted desire.
So yeah, keep saying you’re real OCD when it comes to your desk.
This one is certainly going to be a controversial entry for at least one reason.
I don’t know the fucking lyrics, thus I’m not even sure it’s a horror song.
So you can all finally ask “Is it horror?” and be justified for once.
So why include it? Because it FEELS like one. It isn’t just the title or the fact it comes off their album 666. It’s those grinding chords and distorted lyrics coming through the microphone of a modded telephone receiver. It’s harsh and unnerving at top speeds, breaking through to a rush of adrenaline during the only two recognizable words: Forensic. Scientist.
🎶I got chills, and they’re multi–🎶OH F**K!
Take a listen and hear what I’m talking about. It won’t take long.
Did you feel like someone was aggressively chasing you? Like you were running for your life in an inescapable hellscape?
DURING the song. Not before.
Its edge is rusty and in full swing. I don’t even care how the lyrics play out. I can see a crazed maniac chasing a victim with both ease and joy. A killer having fun. And I certainly didn’t need a slow, ominous cover to accomplish that.
3 X 3
Ok, so the last entry was iffy, but let’s go ahead and say it’s a safe bet to add this one to your Halloween playlist with no confusion. THIS is a horror song. But is it?
This amazingly captivating Bloc Party tune describes in whispers a dark, magic ritual as the victim tries to helplessly resist the seduction.
So why 3 x 3? Dark magic? Casting spells? I have a good guess.
And the boners are slightly less weird this time.
Witches bro. The highlight of the song for me is when the song slows downs as their prisoner tries to fight the hypnotic, insistent commands to give in, building into a climax of relinquishment that surely dooms him.
Witches get results.
Enjoy this sensual treat at a loud volume:
MAXWELL’S SILVER HAMMER
Groups like The Beatles are few and far between, and what more iconic album is there than their 1969 release Abbey Road?
This joke nearly broke me with indecision. If you’re reading this, I finally decided on what album cover to use as a punchline. Thank you.
Anyway, Abbey Road aka “Why did The Beatles cross the road?” was filled with hit after hit. “COME TOGETHER”, “SOMETHING”, “HERE COMES THE SUN”…and an upbeat song about a student who goes on a killing spree using a hammer.
“Bang! Bang! Maxwell’s silver hammer
Came down upon her head
Bang! Bang! Maxwell’s silver hammer
Made sure that she was dead”
🎶Do, dun, do, do🎶
The song is an analogy for Paul McCartney’s feelings about life’s sporadic, unfair events, and he became obsessed with recording it. Denied on the White Album, Paul finally convinced everyone to record it.
“Ringo can record all those stupid, undersea acid trip songs and I can’t have this?”
The experience practically caused his band mates to want to bash in their own heads with a hammer. Take after take after take (sixteen alone for the rhythm) were recorded, lasting, and I quote Ringo, “for f**king weeks”. Lennon was still dealing with injuries from a car accident, but Paul wouldn’t stop until it was perfect. And the results of a murder story disguised as a children’s song?
Lennon called it “more of Paul’s granny music” that was never going to be a single, no matter how much Paul wanted it to be. George hated it and considered it wasted time. And Ringo? “The worst song we ever had to record.”
Guess all the answers to the questions asked in “WHEN I’M SIXTY-FOUR” is “F**k you and your granny song.”
The song still made it into the Beatles musical “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” being performed by Steve Martin of all people. But I guess it’s best to let you listen to the original song and you decide if it was worth it.
IN THE ROOM WHERE YOU SLEEP
Dead Man’s Bones
Speaking of killing people with hammers…
A lot of people might not know that actor Ryan Gosling…
…in addition to many other talents…
…released an album with his friend, Zach Shields, that perfectly encapsulates the spirit of Halloween. The duo known as Dead Man’s Bones released a gothic folk-rock album (as cool as it sounds, yes) in 2009, chock full of spooky goodness perfect to fill your parlor.
What? Your mansion doesn’t have a drawing room? I click my tongue at you.
The two were obsessed with ghosts growing up, and when I say obsessed, I mean so much so, Zach had to get therapy as a child and Ryan’s parents moved out of his childhood home because they thought it was haunted.
They did eventually come back for Ryan.
Ryan and Zach always carry the spirit of Halloween with them, so it was inevitable that their first outing as musicians would be imbued with their love of such things as Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion attraction.
Anyone remember that awesome level from the Adventures in the Magic Kingdom on NES? No? Okay.
Seriously. I could pick any song off their self-titled album and have a winning closer to this article:
But I’m going to go with IN THE ROOM WHERE YOU SLEEP, a song that’s full of the innocence and magic of the season present in the one childhood fear we all shared. Our own bedroom at night.
“I saw something
Sitting on your bed
I saw something
Touching your head
In the room
Where you sleep”
One listen and you’ll be adding this whole album to your spookiest of playlists.
I hope you enjoyed this sequel to my last guest article on horror in music. You can find a Spotify playlist of the songs featured in both this and the previous article right here.
As always, thanks to Gavin and the rest of the Kendall Reviews team for having me back. I always have a blast collaborating.
Happy (Belated) Halloween everyone!
I was one of those lonely kids who ran around the yard in a vinyl cape and plastic Batman mask in the middle of Summer. My overactive imagination and childhood adventures through the woods fed on the emptiness of free time, being filtered through comics, video games, action figures, cartoons, and VHS.
Eventually my brain came up with the craziest ideas and wanted to tell all its stories to anyone who wanted to hear them. So far, that includes the survival-horror western Year 47 and my children’s book Once You Get To Know Me.
So, now I await and see where my brain takes us next. Wanna come? I’d love the company. Watch your head though.
A very special thanks to Gavin and the rest of the Kendall Reviews Crew for having me back yet again to help #PromoteHorror. Love you guys, and you the reader as well. Thank you.