Six (Six Six) For All Hallow's Eve
Today I'm going to divert from my usual MO and post something more befitting the holiday season. Hope the people awaiting the next entry of A Token of My Extreme with bated breath don't mind (all three of you).
Yeah, I know--"holiday music" is a profoundly embarassing cliche, more fit for fat housewives who dutifully trot out dreadfully obnoxious Chipmunks albums every Christmas. And Halloween has honestly never been my favorite holiday. What should be awesome in concept--i.e. dressing up like your ghoul of choice and fleecing a metric shitton of holy candy off your neighbors--only stays that way for about ten to fifteen precious, naive years; after which it gets soiled by the knowledge of how fat that sugary shit makes you or the total fucking embarassment of being a grown human dressing up to compete with retarded teenagers and chaperoned little brats and their fortysomething parents whose "inner child" desperately needs to be beaten and locked in a closet for all eternity. And don't even get me started on candy corn.
So nowadays I spend that night blasting awesome, creepy and cool music at volumes fit for low-flying 747's, marathoning old horror flicks and reveling in the haunted, sepulchral trappings of late fall. While hoping my car doesn't get egged.
Just as horror fiction has splintered into a hydra of genres, each with its own unique stylistic trappings (slasher, cheesy B-movie, psychological, survival, zombie, Lovecraft, etc. etc.), there's a lot of horror-themed music out there covering a similarly broad spectrum, from cheesy sci-fi to gory to occult to the terror of the unknown. And that's where this entry comes in. Here be (no particular order) my six favorite records to spin every 10/31....
The Cramps- Psychedelic Jungle/Gravest Hits (IRS Records, 1981)
The now and forever reigning kings of psychobilly, batshit insane vocalist Lux Interior (RIP), guitar-playing seductress Poison Ivy and their freakish cohorts in tow released many damn fine records--but none greater than this double feature. A covers-heavy brew of B-horror pulp and exploitation themes mashed in a bloody blender with shindiggy surf rock and gutter-bound early punk, Psychedelic Jungle/Gravest Hits offers sublime cuts like "Goo Goo Muck," "Don't Eat Stuff off The Sidewalk," "The Crusher," "Voodoo Idol" and best of all "Human Fly." Only Lux could sell a line like "I've got 96 tears and 96 eyes" with such crazed conviction.
Misfits- Walk Among Us (Ruby/Slash, March 1982)
Long after Glenn Danzig became a total cliche and people have torn those Exploited and Minor Threat patches off their messenger bags, The Misfits are still being listened to. Why? Because they're fucking fun, that's why, as mini-masterpieces like "I Turned Into A Martian" and "Skulls" attest. Lyrics about grotesque transformations, occult imagery and zombie splatterfest anchored to an effortless punk/speed metal pogo, lots of "WHOA-OH-OH's," and Danzig's Elvis-on-crack vocals, this is a 24-minute shot of audio caffeine that only sounds better while tearing around the house in a plastic skull mask.
John Zorn- IAO (Tzadik, 2002)
With song titles like "Sacred Rites of The Left Hand Path" and "Lucifer Rising" and a commitment to the concepts of Aleister Crowley and Kabbalah you might be expecting self-serious cheese, but a look at the roster of super-talented avante-garde personnel (Bill Laswell, Jennifer Charles, Mike Patton) should raise an eyebrow. And so will this album--an elaborate suite of seductive and eerie chants, shamanic percussion, blasting metal, and stretches of creepy ambience, IAO expertly establishes its slow-burn occult aura with the kind of attention to craft that Zorn has made his trademark.
Death- Scream Bloody Gore (Combat/Relativity, 1987)
Not all big stupid gore metal albums are created equal--witness the two decade long surplus of dipshit material from the likes of Cannibal Corpse and Exhumed, just to name two. And Chuck Schuldiner (RIP) himself would go on to make far better music than Death's debut album. But this musical homage to zombie lord George Romero easily surpasses all its imitators--raw, brutal, offensive and impossibly fast without sounding too calculated or overly technical. Lowbrow? Sure, but Scream Bloody Gore's daring and gross-out charm is undeniable. Sorta like watching early Peter Jackson flicks.
Skinny Puppy- Too Dark Park (Nettwork, 1990)
At the height of their ability on this record, Skuppy understood that horror was not just from the realms of fiction, but right outside a slum tenement window or inside the walls of corporate laboratories. A mind-ravaging attack from beginning to end, Too Dark Park is fucking scary on several levels, with samples that hit like bad acid trips and beats that eviscerate spines all set to Nivek Ogre's utterly demented, distorted vox chronicling the worst of humanity's excesses. Opener "Convulsion" is so fragmented and insane that it will forever alter your perception of what music is, the sonic equivalent of Lynch's Eraserhead, and it doesn't get much tamer from there.
Screamin' Jay Hawkins- Voodoo Jive: The Best of.. (Rhino/WEA, 1990)
All modern "shock" rockers: Bow before your god. Though his career was launched by the hit single "I Put A Spell on You" back in the staid, crooner-loving '50s and coasted to commercial obscurity soon after, Screamin' Jay (RIP... we think) is still some next level shit in all his voodoo-hoodoo, coffin-bursting, cape-wearing, shrunken head-sporting glory. Rocking out even in his sixties, Jay brought us seriously bizarre and twisted blues/rockabilly tracks "Alligator Wine," "Frenzy," "Feast of The Mau-Mau" and "Little Demon," along with a bunch of slightly saner tunes all decked out in Jay's howling mad, titanic opera singer pipes and hilarious outbursts of gibberish. Unbound by trends and unaffected by modern attempts from today's pathetic roster of PMRC-baiting clowns, there will never be another performer like him.