There comes a time every October where we collectively set down the pumpkin spice lattes, put on our costumes and pick up a cup of glow-in-the-dark punch or pumpkin spice latte and rum. That’s right, there’s only three more weeks until Halloween Weekend and your admin’s got a treat for you to trick out all over wherever you decide to lay your candy down this season: 120+ minutes of music, spread out over three weeks, intended to kick off a bash that’d make even the likes of Dave Kendall proud. And yes, you did read that url correctly! I’ve moved to standingonthebeach.com for as long as this head remains attached to these shoulders. So while we’ll miss staples like Warren Zevon’s “Werewolves of London, The Misfits’ “Halloween”, Dead Kennedys’ “Halloween”, or even Magnolia Electric Co’s cover of Warren Zevon’s “Werewolves of London” (What can I say? It really is just that good of a song), I’ve managed to include some tracks from newer artists that follow in the great tradition of ~spooky alternative music~ for kicks and grins. Now let’s ring that doorbell and get this party started.
ONE: “Sacrificial Bonfire”- XTC
Where’s That From??: 1986’s Skylarking
” “Fire!” they cried
“So evil must die
And yields are good.”
So men pull back hoods and smile,
The scapegoat blood spilled,
Spittled and grilled, it crackled and spat
And children grew fat on the meat.
Change must be earned,
Sacrificial bonfire must burn.
Burn up the old
Ring in the new, burn up the old, ring in the new. “
This song actually closes out Skylarking, which appropriately begins with the song “Summer’s Cauldron”, but in the spirit of the pagan Samhain tradition which we as a society co-opted for our own nefarious candy infused, medical insurance-complex based purposes, I’m celebrating the song a little differently here. Every playlist must start somewhere, and this song’s literally about exactly what I just described. XTC’s Andy Partridge was said to have made a toy store his preferred songwriting muse during his time in the band and this particular piece bears that mark as well as Partridge’s signature acerbic and satirical lyrical wit.
TWO: “Witch Hunt”- The Church
Where’s That From??: 1992’s Priest = Aura
” Wake up baby, oh baby open your eyes,
Look around you, this may be your last sunrise. “
Is this a fun, creepy carnival tune or an accurate picture of 18th century New England? Are white people who dress up like other ethnicities assholes or just poorly informed? Is The Church vocalist Steve Killbey a man or a God? Let’s keep the reflections here short and sweet to keep it going like this song.
THREE: “She’s in Parties (Single Edit)”- Bauhaus
Where’s That From??: The 1986 compilation 1979-1983 Vol. 2
” Hot lines under a rain of drum
Cigarette props in action
Dialogue dub, now here’s the rub
She’s acting her reaction “
The immaculate Goth Rock kings in Bauhaus had broken up by the time this song actually saw the light of day or perhaps more accurately the dead of night, but like the bass fade at the end of this song I think that only serves to further their mystique. Think about it: if Bauhaus had lived on forever, the genre would’ve never evolved the way it did, and we’d probably be stuck with songs that sound exclusively like this.
FOUR: “Shot By Both Sides”- Magazine
Where’s That From??: 1978’s Real Life
” I wormed my way into the heart of the crowd,
Wormed my way into the heart of the crowd
I was shocked to find what was allowed
I didn’t lose myself in the crowd “
Isn’t that the eternal dilemma of every Halloween party: how far into it you can get, emotionally and physically? “Shot By Both Sides” is an urgent song, so I’v placed it relatively close to the beginning to keep things interesting. The way Magazine turns an already great hook into a fast paced drama is immediately thrilling and relatable. Plus it feels perfect for the customary party gesture of chugging something quickly, like a handful of candy corns for example.
FIVE: “Red Right Hand”- Arctic Monkeys
Where’s That From??: The “Crying Lightning” single or the Japanese and iTunes editions of 2009’s Humbug
” You’ll see him in your nightmares, you’ll see him in your dreams
He’ll appear out of nowhere but
he’s not what he seems
You’ll see him in your head,
and on the TV screen
Hey buddy, I’m warning you to turn it off
He’s a ghost, he’s a god,
he’s a man, he’s a guru. “
For their third album (produced interestingly enough by Queens of the Stone Age frontman Josh Homme, who we haven’t heard the last of on this playlist) and 2009 tour of Nick Cave’s Australia, Arctic Monkeys went back to their roots, removing their recently acquired stoner-Yacht Rock caps and putting on some Bad Seeds costumes for this cover. Honorable mention goes to the version by co-writer Nick Cave, which has an explicit connection to Halloween thanks to its appearance in the first three films of the Scream franchise.
SIX: ” Fake Blood “- Mission of Burma
Where’s That From??: 2004’s ONoffON
” You convinced me
When the capsule broke
In the artificial light
A red so true
You’d never doubt
It gushes out “
Mission of Burma’s legendary classic “That’s When I Reach For My Revolver” almost flowed into and took this spot, but it’s just not quite Halloween-y enough for this playlist. Better a late period-album track than no Mission of Burma at all though.
SEVEN: “Who Do You Want To Be”- Oingo Boingo
Where’s That From??: 1987’s Good For Your Soul or the 1997 compilation Best O’ Boingo
” I think I’ll be a Teddy Boy, I think I’ll be a Hunk
I think I’ll be a Tough Guy and I think I’ll be a Punk… “
While there is a science to party playlisting, there’s not really a place for “Weird Science” or “Dead Man’s Party” here. But in addition to penning all those songs, Oingo Boingo’s Danny Elfman, as the literal voice of Pumpkin King Jack Skellington, is one of the undisputed lords of the holiday for a lot of folks. Taking its cue from Good For Your Soul’s darker and more serious themes, “Who Do You Want To Be” functions as one of the high points of The Mystic Knights socially conscious, Devo-esque pop career and on a second level as a serious question of what the most obvious and personal aspect Halloween is about: what exactly does your costume say about you?
EIGHT: “Sex Dwarf”- Soft Cell
Where’s That From??: 1981’s Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret
” When we hit the floor you just watch them move aside
We will take them for a ride of rides
They all love your miniature ways
You know what they say about small boys
Sex… Dwarf. “
While this song earns a spot on the list based on reputation alone, I think Marc Almond and Dave Ball hit something right on the head when they wrote “Sex Dwarf”. Halloween’s all about hinting at our hidden predilections, whether that means dressing and acting like Donald Trump’s hairpiece or simply a sex dwarf. It’s the one night of the year that we’re supposed to be free to do that, and if you can’t get down with “Sex Dwarf”, then you can’t get down with me.
NINE: “Dead Disco”- Metric
Where’s That From??: 2003’s Old World Underground, Where Are You Now?
Everything has been done “
Another song that deserves a place basically through superficial characteristics, in this case specifically its killer title. “Dead Disco” wouldn’t be out of place anywhere, least of all a party following Soft Cell. Check out that complimentary beat and synthlines and tell me I’m wrong.
TEN: “Skeleton Kiss (Death Mix)”- Christian Death featuring Rozz Williams
Where’s That From??: The re-recorded version off 1992’s The Iron Mask
” Churches should be there
I think of adventures of admiring corpses
I’m retiring in the corner “
Say what you will of Rozz Williams’s lyrics on this one, but Christian Death was just about as morbid as morbid gets. Before we get to that though, a little background: after blazing basically every trail with regards to Deathrock, a genre that bridged together American Hardcore Punk, Post-punk, Goth Rock, and Metal, Williams abandoned the Christian Death band and moniker, only to have them snatched out from underneath him by former bandmate Valor Kand. Williams sued and lost the rights to the name “Christian Death”. Ignoring a court ruling, Williams began performing and recording with his own version of Christian Death again, hence the distinctive “featuring” credit. But like I said, dude ate, drank, breathed, and lived Deathrock. Even after he stopped producing music as Christian Death. He formed several more similar groups with ex-Christian Death members including Shadow Project, named after a study of the effects of post-war Hiroshima, until he committed suicide in 1998. The cabinet he used to hang himself in now sits above a photo of Williams holding a human skull in the LA Museum of Death, a move I believe to be totally in the spirit of every sensibility he held in life.
ELEVEN: “Shake The Disease”- Depeche Mode
Where’s That From??: The compilations Catching up With Depeche Mode or The Best of Depeche Mode, Vol. 1
” Now I’ve got things to do
And I’ve said before that I know you have too
When I’m not there
In spirit I’ll be there “
Possibly Depeche Mode’s greatest death waltz and as appropriate a place as any to pause on this playlist, “Shake The Disease” is a somewhat simple song with a complicated lore at its core. Not only do the lyrics above directly reference the final verse of “Stories Of Old” off DeMode’s previous album Some Great Reward, already a high and somewhat foreign concept for an electronic band, but it was a massively popular song with such a hauntingly beautiful melody and video without ever appearing on an album properly. It’s hard to track and tack down why this song is good and has earned a spot on the mix but it does so effortlessly. Maybe because the next best alternative is Depeche Mode’s “Black Celebration”, and we’re far too clever for a song that’s that obvious. Halloween calls for a few surprises, and may this stellar track be the first of many.
That does it for side one of this playlist. Check back later this week when I’ll be posting part two! And again, welcome to the new standingonthebeach.com!