Spotify playlist: Halloween 2014
Featuring The Cure, Eminem, Cat Power, Mike Oldfield, Bauhaus, Prima Donnas and Suicide
What is it about October that makes Halloween music go from sleazy to palatable? Chuck a few pumpkins in Tesco and suddenly everyone’s getting down to ‘The Monster Mash’ like it’s a regular Tuesday. Luckily, the sounds of Halloween aren’t restricted to ‘Thriller’, thanks to the freaks and creeps that lurk the music industry. Here is our pick of the truly scary songs for a Halloween straight outta hell.
Clockwork Quartet – 'The Watchmaker’s Apprentice'
The Clockwork Quartet are a multimedia creation whose music matches sad, plodding tunes to macabre tales that have stings in the tail to rival Saki. In ‘The Watchmaker’s Apprentice’, a young man bemoans the loss of his job to industrialisation and sets out to plot his revenge. Melancholy and tarnished, the climax packs a morbid punch.
Mike Oldfield – 'Tubular Bells'
You only really need to listen to the first half a minute to get the gist, but the Exorcist theme – written by Oldfield when he was just 19 – is a haunting piano tinkler guaranteed to make the hairs stand up and visions of pea-soup-puke cloud the mind.
Cat Power – 'Werewolf'
Covering Michael Hurley’s original, Power’s plaintive voice framed by quivering strings makes ‘Werewolf’ a forbidding listen. A song from before werewolves were muscled-up Twilight types, there is a longing in her voice and a sad darkness that makes this one of the most confusingly creepiest songs to be recorded.
Bauhaus – 'Bela Lugosi’s Dead'
It wouldn’t be a list of creepy songs without the rock goth sounds of Bauhaus. Influenced by Joy Division – and Peter Murphy is clearly channeling Bowie – this is a freaky little tribute to horror cinema doyen – and arguably the best Dracula to grace our screens – Bela Lugosi, with a whole lot of gloom to suit the occasion.
David Bowie – 'Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)'
It’s not as if the Thin White Duke is a stranger to oddity, but ‘Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)’ fits the Halloween billing more than most due to its strange mix of Bowie’s faux-Cockney accent and lyrics depicting a young woman’s descent into madness. The fact that Bowe blames himself: ‘she asked for my love / and I gave her a dangerous mind’ lends a more sinister edge to the tune.
The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band – ‘Monster Mash’
Okay, the original is a little cheesy and a bit odd, but this version at least has Vivian Stanshall’s plummy tones barrelling through. Ideally watched with video accompaniment in order to highlight the chaotic nature of Bonzo Dog performances (this one from 60s kids’ TV show Do Not Adjust Your Set, it is a mixture of unnerving and plain old mental.
The Cure – 'Lullaby'
‘His arms are all around me and his tongue in my eyes’ is just one of the messed-up images resplendent in The Cure’s gory story of a mysterious ‘spider man’. Of course, it’s not about the actual Spider-Man, silly, but drugs or depression or, if you believe Smith himself, a nightmare he had as a child. Still, the video, in all its hallucinatory glory, is a bit delicious.
Prima Donnas – Four o’clock in the Morning
You’re going to sing along to this one and, while it will make you feel weird afterwards, it’s alright. With a bleepy synth sound (as though from a horror movie about evil children), backing lyrics that are deceptively disturbing, the Prima Donnas have created that rarity: a grotesque beauty that can’t be forgotten.
Eminem – 'Kim'
Real life monsters are more terrifying than anything the mind can conjure and, in ‘Kim’ – Eminem’s full-tilt mental breakdown – it’s hard to tell who is the bigger monster is meant to be: the rapper or his ex-wife. A love song to his two year old daughter quickly turns to a raging, ranting depiction of an abusive relationship. The evocation of the droning chorus and explicit lyrics is difficult to take, packed with victim blaming, violence and desperate heartbreak.
Jacob Yates & the Pearly Gate Lockpickers – 'Mary Hell'
The opening zombie moans, not quite the wrong side of cheesy but getting close, portend this tongue-in-cheek doom-wop ditty, delivered with a wry smile and a spot of ‘Maryhill’ wordplay. Formed from the ashes of Uncle John & Whitelock, there’s a wee touch of Nick Cave undercut with shades of horror punk.
Suicide – 'Frankie Teardrop'
This spoken word horror show about Frankie Teardrop and his desperate life is not for the faint of heart. A buzzsaw backing and terrifying screams melt into a cacophony of waves and car crash and crowds until the final claim that ‘we are all Frankies’ seems too real to be safe. Pop this one on at the end of the party to make sure you get rid of the remaining hangers on.