So you’re throwing your annual Halloween party but you shot your wad on all the holiday classics ( the Monster Mash, the Time Warp, the Purple People Eater, etc, etc) on last year’s mix. So you’re going as Will Smith circa “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” and you’re looking for something seasonal to blast from the boom box slung over your shoulder. So you’re psyching yourself up to wear your Sexy Einstein costume complete with the 3-inch hair (go for it, Miss/Mister Thang!!). So you’re hosting a seance and you need some tunes to help you commune with the spirit.
WE GOT YOU. Behold AudioFemme’s spookiest, scariest, most rockin’ and rollin’ Halloween playlist, guaranteed to thrill, chill, and catch the eye of that babealicious witch doctor in the apartment down the hall. Onward!!
1. Walk Like A Zombie – HorrorPops
This Danish psychobilly act shares its guitarist Kim Nekroman with the thrashier but stylistically related Nekromantix, for which Nekroman plays a recognizable coffin-shaped bass. HorrorPops formed in the late 90s, when Nekroman met Patricia Day at a music festival in Germany. Day now fronts the group, which draws aspects of ska, rockabilly, and punk that both she and Nekroman found lacking in their other projects. The two eventually married, and fittingly, “Walk Like A Zombie” is doo-woppy and more than a little romantic. Perfect for that un-dead high school prom you’re DJing. Just make sure to keep the glassy look of death in your eyes.
2. Chainsaw Gutsfuck – Mayhem
Off the seminal Norweigian black metal album Deathcrush, released in 1987, “Chainsaw Gutsfuck” won the prestigious title of having the Blender award for “Most Gruesome Lyrics Ever” in 2006. Fifteen years beforehand, it was inspiring black metal bands in Scandinavia and beyond to delve deeper into lyrical bleakness, to glorify extremity in violence and misery, and to distort their music into the grainiest, harshest possible sounds. “Chainsaw Gutsfuck” is one of the doomier songs on a very doomy album, with lyrics that sexualize death and corporeal decay. But, if you can handle the black metal sludge, it’s totally catchy, too. Want to dress the part? Christ, you could go as any of Mayhem’s members or black metal contemporaries and stand a solid chance at being the scariest monster at the party. The group’s most recognizable figure is perhaps Euronymous, its founder and guitarist, who held some nasty political views and achieved infamy when, upon discovering the body of his band’s singer Dead after the latter committed suicide, allegedly made necklaces out of his skull fragments and possibly (though it’s unlikely) cannibalized him by stirring flecks of his brain into a stew. Euronymous himself was murdered by another bandmate, Varg Vikernes, the following year. Halloween is the time to be tasteless, so wear corpsepaint, long hair, black and leather.
3. I Put A Spell On You – Nina Simone
Originally performed by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, Nina Simone’s “I Put A Spell On You” is seething, brooding and betrayed, like she’s looking into a crystal ball to discover a lover’s duplicitous carryings-on. Especially towards the end of her career, Simone had a reputation for fire and fury on stage, too. A life in the music business left her weary and long-embattled, bitter alike to the people who loved and exploited her. Released decades before her death, “I Put A Spell On You” foreshadows the betrayal she seemed to come to see in the people around her. But, no matter her demons, Simone’s genius is present here–as everywhere–glowing like an ember, dying down when it’s still, and firing up again in a slight breeze, even after you think it’s gone out.
4. Tainted Love – Gloria Jones
And speaking of women scorned, “Tainted Love” is practically an anthem for love gone frighteningly awry. Gloria Jones recorded “Tainted Love,” which later became an electronic single for the band Soft Cell, in 1964. The original fell somewhere short of Motown, akin to demonic bubble gum pop that had been steeped in the sultry blues. Five years after recording “Tainted Love,” Jones began singing backup for the British rock band T. Rex and met her future husband, Marc Bolan. It was Jones who was driving the car when, one night in September of 1977, Bolan died in a car accident. Jones–who nearly faced charges for impaired driving after drinking wine on the night of the accident–lost the couple’s house and moved back to L.A. “Tainted Love” remains her longest-lasting hit, with covers aplenty and appearances in current film and TV soundtracks.
5. Somebody’s Watching Me – Rockwell (featuring Michael Jackson)
It’s not just those Jackson hee-hees in the chorus that bring to mind the campy spook of “Thriller.” This track is pop-culture paranoid, stocked with references to television and the everyday horrors of being spied on. “Somebody’s Watching Me” dropped in 1984, and its theme of a dystopian state, in which even “normal people” fall under invisible scrutiny, feels ever more prescient today in light of Internet freedom issues and heightened technological development. Plus, “Someone’s Watching Me” has a spooky synth line that sounds like it’s played on a xylophone made of a cartoon rib cage!
6. Walkin’ Through A Cemetery – Claudine Clark
Claudine Clark, whose early single “Party Lights” proved her only song to score high on the charts, experimented with the spooky side of pop in “Walking Through A Cemetery.” Hindsight’s 20/20, but I’m not surprised that after “Party Lights”–which is about trying to convince your mom to let you go to a party–“Walking Through A Cemetery” flatlined. The lyrics took a serious turn in the for-whom-the-bell-tolls direction, after all: “If you’re walking through a cemetery one dark night/ Up jumps a creature and he gives you a fright/ Ain’t no use to turn around and walk the other way/ ‘Cause if he’s for you, baby, he’s gonna get you anyway.” Geez. Pretty serious stuff, for someone whose most popular work to date dealt with the injustice of not being allowed to do the twist, the fish, the watusi, and the mashed potatoes. But no one said Halloween was all fun and games. We’re all destined for the grave, but in this danceable number, Clark sings om bop bop, om bop bop sha doo dee doo dee all the way there.
7. Spooky – Dusty Springfield
Dusty Springfield’s gender-switched cover of the classic “Spooky,” a song that tells the story of a “spooky little girl” who compels and mystifies, and, like a ghost, only seems to show up when no one else is around, is further “spookified” by Springfield’s sly and porcelain-pretty vocals. The performance is ghostly–the woman herself was more complex. Springfield–a lesbian performing at a time when gayness was professional suicide–made a second career of cloaking her identity. The flip side of the doll-like vocals was a person who raged, drank too much, had a problem with pills. And its restraint makes Springfield’s spooky all the eerier.
8. The Whistler – The White Buffalo
Singer/songwriter Jake Smith is a big man, with a big, big voice. Nowhere more so than on “The Whistler,” off the 2013 album Shadows, Greys and Evil Ways. His stage name is apt, and like a large herd animal, Smith’s performances are often remarkable for the gentle giant-ishness. When he roars, though, the earth quakes. “The Whistler” marks the interior battle of a man who knows what the right thing is but chooses its opposite, and revels in his own destruction. The scariest demon of all is the demon inside, kids!
9. God Alone – Altar of Plagues
Out of a host of powerful metal records to come out of 2013, Teethed Glory and Injury–from Altar of Plagues, AKA Irish musician James Kelly–stands out as one of the most precocious and innovative within a genre wreathed with tradition and homage to be paid. “God Alone” stands out as the record’s most violent track, but that violence is achieved through skill and technical manipulation, not blunt force. The rhythms tilt and hang off-kilter; the beats deploy sudden, booming jolts that make you jump out of your seat.
10. Little Fang -Avey Tare’s Slasher Flicks
I wouldn’t call “Little Fang”–or the group behind it–scary, but damned if Welcome To The Slasher House, this year’s debut release from Slasher Flicks, isn’t Halloween-ishly kitschy. The group plays shrouded in a backdrop of glowing skulls, leering in neon green, and plays on dissonance and surreal lyrics. “Little Fang” is less Fright Night, more sticky fingers and sugar rush.
And there you have ’em, folks. Consider this list your musical Trick Or Treat offerings from your friendly neighborhood Femmes. Don’t egg our house, please, but do tell us what we missed! What are your favorite Halloween tunes? Let us know in the comments below!