10 October, 2012

Will You Scary Me? A List of Five Very, Very, Deeply and Awfully Frightening Songs


OK. I'm bored. I've got 20 minutes. Halloween's coming up soon. Let's do this. I'm not counting Whitehouse or Sutcliffe Jugend because that shit is just too easy and not counting live versions of songs I've heard by the Birthday Party or Swans or what-have-you because that's too specific and too nit-picking. I'm not counting Diamanda Galas because I don't find her very scary. And I'm not counting Scott Walker's The Drift because picking the most individually scary moment on that slab of horror is like picking the most individually scary image inside "The Garden of Earthly Delights." Studio versions. Let's go.

5. Suicide, "Frankie Teardrop." Sort of a boring choice, I guess, but I mean, shit - it's still amazingly effective. I've heard "Frankie Teardrop" for years and years, but I am still, to this day, never able to anticipate Alan Vega's first stifled yelp. And it makes me jump every time I hear it, even in broad daylight. That's power.

4. Throbbing Gristle, "Very Friendly." So you say you're a hardened listener, you got ears made of reinforced concrete, all that shit. That's very fortunate because this will chip away at your mind. Scarier even than "Hamburger Lady" (because it's catchier and quite perversely funny, therefore far sicker), "Very Friendly" is 18 minutes that mostly consist of a two-note fuzz bassline so degenerate and so gross-sounding that it could induce nightmares on its own. However, that doesn't take Genesis P-Orridge's lyrics into consideration, which chronicle the Moors Murders in excruciating detail, or his vocals, which seem to treat the whole sorry true story as really a wonderful little joke.

3. Brainbombs, "Macht." There are a lot of Brainbombs songs that straddle the line between hilariously offensive camp, self-consciously offensive and indefensibly vile garbage, and just plain terror, and this song may well be the scariest thing they will ever record. Five minutes of utterly brutalizing guitar noise in E minor - it makes Teenage Jesus and the Jerks sound like restrained preschoolers - with Peter Raberg's most effective vocal ever (he sounds subdued and terrified, for once) narrating the Nazis' invasion of Poland, it makes most "scary" bands sound as intimidating as Casper the Friendly Ghost in comparison.

2. Oxbow, "The Stabbing Hand." Nine minutes that switch schizophrenically between unsettling musique concrete - an organ hums to itself atonally while a bunch of seemingly unrelated musical details float in and out of the mix, while way in the back of the mix a severely emotionally traumatized man sobs and cries himself to sleep - and absolutely homicidal noise so tightly wound and frightening that it will make you feel dreadfully unhappy. That's not even considering Eugene Robinson's... um... well... I guess we'll have to call it singing - though the howled/whispered/shrieked personification of every murderous impulse you've ever had is probably more accurate.

1. Swans, "Young God." Michael Gira's agonized howling on this song is still, to this day, like nothing I have ever heard come out of a human being's throat. It sounds like someone who is literally in hell. It's still probably the most frightening song I've ever heard.

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