Thursday, October 31, 2019

Happy Halloween!

Since Halloween is both a day of having fun and remembering the dead, today we're revisiting the soundtrack to the zombie hoedown that kicked off this month, Return of the Living Dead, to honor a sadly departed contributor to that masterwork. Roky Erickson died in June of this year, leaving behind one of the finest catalogues of psychedelic/horror rock. We heard a couple songs from him last year, when he was still out and about performing shows. I'm kicking myself that I missed him in New Jersey on Halloween of last year, but some nice person posted a video of a whole show from that same tour here. Below, check out his contribution to Return of the Living Dead. It's a song called "Burn the Flames" and the video features a deleted segment from the scene that features Roky's song. It's well-suited for a voluntary cremation scene, but the song lyrics themselves are even creepier than the movie. A skeleton sitting at his organ, his candelabra burning hellishly hellish hell... Wherever Roky is now, I know his flame is still burning higher, higher, and higher.

Now that the somber part is over, don't forget the fun part! It's time to eat all the candy (yes all of it), to wear your monster clothing to work, and to crank the Halloween tunes loud enough to drown out your neighbor's complaints about the noise. And don't forget what Return of the Living Dead taught us--this isn't a costume, it's a way of life! Happy Halloween!

Aria kidding me?

Just wanted to slip one last song in before the last spooky song of the season. If you've ever thought opera to be unfunny and impenetrable (aside from the one sung by Bugs Bunny, that is), Joseph Keckler is here to change your mind. His rich voice spans three octaves and he sings in German and Italian more than English, but his songs cover such un-stuffy topics as a demon-infused magic mushroom trip and a mob of strangers he met on the internet showing up at his house a few years late. "Goth Song" is his opus about re-becoming a teen goth and the strain that puts on one's adult work life. Turns out it's not so easy to maintain "the look" when one has to buy all those vinyl clothes using one's paycheck rather than an allowance. 

If you dig this song, check out his other videos on his website. They're all great! And don't pass up a chance to hear his amazing voice live--right now he's on tour with Sleater Kinney. Unless of course you spent all your concert money on vinyl clothing.


Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Damned Legends

Just before leaving town last weekend, I was able to catch the mother of all Halloween concerts--The Misfits with The Damned and Rancid! After seeing the original lineup for The Misfits last year, I thought I would never get that opportunity again. But the band is still on the prowl, and now scheduled for yet another show past the court-mandated ten that started this tour in motion (December in Philadelphia--merry Christmas!!). They sounded a hundred times better at Madison Square Garden this year than they did in Jersey last year, and they brought along two openers who hold their own ranks in punk rock nobility.

This is especially true of The Damned. They formed in London in 1976, a year before the Misfits came together in New Jersey. They were the first UK punk band to release a single, an album, and to tour the US. They paved the way for Goth, with lead singer Dave Vanian's vampire stage looks, and the band's sometimes gloomy sound and horror-tinged subjects. As much as I love Rancid and their always-fun live show, it does seem a little wrong that The Damned opened for them rather than vice versa. The founding members of Rancid weren't yet teenagers when The Damned formed, yet last weekend Dave Vanian and company stepped onto the stage that defines "arena rock" and turned it into the best punk venue in town, with Vanian quipping that "it's great to be back at CBGB."

Today's song comes from The Damned's 1979 album Machine Gun Etiquette. "Plan 9 Channel 7" is a somber ode to the original horror hostess and star of Plan 9 from Outer Space, Vampira. Supposedly Vampira, aka Maila Nurmi, had a close friendship/perhaps more than friendship with James Dean, which is hinted at in this song. Below is the original video for the song, with a (very young) Damned being led into a misty forest by a Vampira lookalike. Does a terrifying rubber monster await them there? Stay tuned to Channel 7 for the explosive conclusion...

Friday, October 18, 2019

Nice pumpkins!

I'll be traveling to my homeland of southern Appalachia over the next week and unable to do any posts, so in honor of my birthplace, today's song is by Appalachia's patron saint, Dolly Parton. Dolly is by far my favorite musician, but sadly she hasn't done a lot spooky songs that fit our purposes here. The closest we've come is when her former TV singing partner, Porter Wagoner, showed up the first year of this blog with his unsettling madhouse ode "The Rubber Room." Dolly has done a few creepy numbers, like her ghostly dead child ballad "Jeannie's Afraid of the Dark," her beautiful woman-gone-mad epic "Mountain Angel," and her rendition of the classic murder ballad "Banks of the Ohio."

But my favorite Halloween-worthy Dolly composition isn't a song but a recitation of a scary story her mother used to tell her and her siblings to make them get in bed at night. "Bloody Bones and Scratch Eyes" comes from Dolly's first live album, 1970's A Real Live Dolly. It was recorded in the auditorium of her alma mater, Sevier County High School in Sevierville Tennessee, so Dolly's mother was probably sitting there in the audience when Dolly admitted this story used to make her wet the bed. She says that now that she's grown, she's still not sure if there's not a real Boogerman, Scratch Eyes, and Rawhead Bloody Bones lurking the hills and forests of Appalachia. Who knows, maybe I'll encounter one of those creatures while I'm home. If so, I hope my bladder isn't full...

Thursday, October 17, 2019

¡DiversiĆ³n monstruosa!

Of all the new horror shows clogging up streaming services and TV airwaves these days, my favorite of the year (and maybe of the past several years) is one I didn't think I'd like at all. When I first saw ads for Los Espookys in the subway, I thought it would be yet another teen supernatural drama. I mean look at that poster--you could easily drop a teenage witch or two in there without stirring the fog. But the only somewhat correct thing about my assumption is the supernatural part.

In reality, Los Espookys is one of the most delightfully odd shows I've ever seen. It concerns a group of friends in an unnamed Mexican city who turn their love of horror into a business staging supernatural events for paying clients. For instance, in one episode the group creates a sea monster for a seaside village needing a tourism boost. In another they help an ambassador stage her own abduction with the help of a cursed mirror. The show is as funny as it is strange--kind of like if Pete and Pete from The Adventures of Pete and Pete grew up, learned Spanish, and got really obsessed with the supernatural.

Los Espookys got renewed for a second season, so hopefully by this time next year we'll all be watching the further adventures of Renaldo, Tati, Ursula, and Andres (and maybe more than six episodes this time, pretty please?). Until then, enjoy the song that opens and closes the show, "Ellos Quieren Sangre" (They Want Blood) by Varsovia.

The trailer doesn't do justice to how hilariously surreal and surreally hilarious the show is, but if you haven't seen it before, this will give you an idea of what you're missing. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Hex the patriarchy!

If you've been wishing our modern era of free gender expression would extend itself to our most popular deities, Twin Temple is one step ahead of you (at least on the Satan front). We heard from this devilish doo-wop group last year, with a song from their self-titled debut. Just this month they released a new single: "Satan's A Woman" backed with "I Am A Witch." The album's cover describes these songs as "The diabolical new singles from the wickedest band in the world, presented in monophonic sound for your listening pleasure. Suitable for ritual use."

In the case of "Satan's A Woman," however, the ritual wouldn't involve virgin sacrifice so much as a mean Watusi. This Dame Scratch doesn't need your money or blood because she makes her own and is proud of it! Mama never said there'd be days like this, when the devil comes out as female through the medium of a song you can do The Twist to, but I'm glad they're here.

Twin Temple is on tour right now, so go bow down as low as you can go if they come to a town near you! I have tickets to see them in December and am already breaking in my cloven dance shoes. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Tis the season to be witchy

2019 seems to be the year of so-so horror films with better-than-average spooky song remakes on their soundtracks. In addition to the reimagining of "Pet Sematary" by Starcrawler that we heard yesterday, Lana Del Rey did an excellent spooky/sexy cover of Donovan's "Season of the Witch" for Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

We heard a song from the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark books back in 2014, long before there was word of a movie version in the works. Those books are sacred ground for me, since they both terrified and fascinated me as a kid. I can't say the new film flew over the bar I had set for it in my mind, but it didn't crash and burn, either. It's actually a fairly decent gateway horror film for tweens/teens, as well as a nifty nostalgia trip for people like myself who want to see Stephen Gammell's hideous artistic creations rise from the page. To my delight (and probably to the credit of producer Guillermo del Toro), the movie doesn't hold back on breathing putrid, rotten life into Gammell's monsters. See for yourself in these side-by-side comparisons of The Pale Lady and Harold the Scarecrow!

No need to fear a shoddy rendering of a perennial Halloween playlist tune, either. However you feel about Lana Del Rey, her ethereal melancholia is perfectly suited for "Season of the Witch."