This year’s Halloween playlist is inspired by real-life fears — fear of flying, death, failure, the dark, the afterlife (or lack thereof), heights, rejection, and various other horrifying realities that give us nightmares — if we can ever fall asleep …
“Plane Crash,” moe. Amid dramatic strings and clashes of roiling instrumentals, bassist-singer Rob Derhak confronts his intense fear of flying, forcing himself onto a plane to get home because he’s so damn sick of being on the road. The lyrical narrative climaxes as he frets: “When they take off my chest sinks, my ears pop, I pray, I lie / I think about the network news to torture myself, and to pass the time / They tell me my seat cushion is a floatation device, pray to God they ain’t lying.”
“Death,” Dodos. Death is a universal, deep-seated fear for most of us, but sometimes the fear of a loved one dying and leaving us behind is even greater. Dodos tackle the subject in this aptly titled track. “Death, what could be worse / If I had something to complain about / If I took your place, would it hurt?”
“Dentist,” Little Shop of Horrors Soundtrack/Cast Album. The hilariously morbid film-turned-musical plays upon our very real dread of the dentist with this ode delivered by a sadistic dentist, who enjoys his job far too much. (See him in all his drill-happy glory in an exuberant production of the musical playing through Nov. 3 at New Stage Theatre in Largo.)
“It Just Might Be a One-Shot Deal,” by Frank Zappa. The only thing more terrifying than death itself is the fear of what exactly happens afterwards. What if there is no reincarnation, heaven or hell — only death and rot and nothingness? Frank Zappa’s psychedelic blues rock ode offers consolation and a bit of advice, using an acid trip as a metaphor: “You can be scared when it gets too real, but you should be diggin’ it while it’s happening, ’cause it just might be a one-shot deal.”
“Every Night My Teeth Are Falling Out,” The Antlers. We sure do have hang-ups about our teeth. Some people fear the dentist; others suffer from honondasdontiaphobia — literally, the fear of losing teeth. You’ve likely had nightmares about it happening, and while it’s not a fear based in reality (unless you’re a methhead), the nightmares are caused by very real anxieties we have about our appearance.
“Afraid of Heights,” Wavves. The indie garage band isn’t necessarily discussing acrophobia — hard to tell just what songwriter Nathan Williams was thinking when he wrote this track — but the lyrics do comment on loneliness and existential malaise in lines like “I’ll always be on my own / Fucked and alone” and “I’m ugly, you’re boring / I can’t act like I care.”
“Evil Children,” King Missile. A cheeky ditty that plays around with the idea of what we fear the kids are getting up to, and what they actually do. “The very evil children / took the dog out to play in the park / then they took him home / and refused to set him on fire … All their lives, people expected them to do bad / They almost never delivered.”
“Throes of Rejection,” Pantera. Phil Anselmo snarls through the pain and self-doubt of his latest rejection over thrashing metal grooves. Not that he seems surprised. In fact, it’s kind of helped shape his character: “This shit goes on and on / Just look down my pants / Rejection … it ain’t a fucking game / my human dick to blame / A sociopathic plan / is feeding what I am.”
“Rap for Rejection” Kate Nash. Nash addresses rejection in her “rap,” but the song is more of a commentary on sexism, double standards and the idea of being used and discarded. “He asked you to undress but you didn’t feel okay with it / He said you were dressed like a little slut said you were asking for that fuck / But I’ll tell you what happened he abused your trust / Told all his friends about it and now you feel the trust is cut.”
“Kids Get Away,” Jamaican Queens. When a friend of the duo was violently assaulted while walking down the street in Detroit, singer/songwriter Ryan Spencer was inspired to write a song about it (“Lover, they cut up your face / Throwing up I hit the ground in shame”). But he wasn’t trying to fear-monger in his own beloved city; Spencer has said he wrote it as more of cautionary tale: “Be careful, but don’t give in to fear.”
“The Sound Of Failure / It’s Dark … Is It Always This Dark??” The Flaming Lips. The heroine in this Lips track isn’t afraid of failing any longer — she’s succumbed to it, even answered the call.
“Mystery Life,” Aan. A song reflecting on the horrifying mundanity of everyday living, the desire for escapism, and making something of your reality despite being miserable in it. “Push me closer to the edge, if I jump I’ll understand, or I’ll lose myself again,” Bud Wilson yelps with his usual theatrical flare. The video is a hilarious translation featuring the Grim Reaper.
Expanded Spotify playlist below...