Friday, March 13, 2020

The Best 14 Songs About The End Of The World!

Siouxsie & The Banshees - Cities In Dust

If ever there was a vocal performance that, itself, imbues the horror and uncertainty of a world in peril, it is Siouxsie Sioux's soul-stirring vocal performance for this incendiary track from the band's equally fiery (and appropriately named) 1986 album Tinderbox.

Afrika Bambaataa. & Johnny Lydon - World Of Destruction

When two innovators from their respective genres (hip hop and punk) who, one would presume, are used to doing things their own way join forces and it actually manages to a) not suck, and b) break new ground to the extent that the song is only just now being appreciated by the common-folk for its musical innovation and ability to get even the most stubborn rump shaking after placement in mainstream TV shows like "The Sopranos" and "Mr. Robot".

R.E.M. - It's The End of The World

Even though we just wrote about this song a few days go, you just knew this song would be on this list. This acoustic version reminds us that, of all the bands of their day, R.E.M. probably made the easiest transition to the acoustic format without neutering their sound. Nirvana, on the other hand...

The Police - When The World Is Running Down (You Make The Best of What's Still Around)

While Sting would truly disappear down the rabbit hole of pessimism for much of Ghost In The Machine, his brief foray into socially-conscious themes on Zenyatta Mondatta resulted in the refreshingly upbeat funk number. If the end of the world was truly as fun as The Police make it sound, we'd have done it long ago.

Metallica - For Whom The Bell Tolls

The film "Zombieland" gets bonus points for the best use of a Metallica song, turning this longtime concert favorite from the band's second album, Ride The Lightning, into an anthem for a post-apocalyptic world. It also reminds us what a monolithic beast the band was during those heady Cliff Burton days when the band's popularity was spreading like wildfire thanks to good old-fashioned word-of-mouth (and illegal tape-trading)

Europe - The Final Countdown

While Europe, the band, will always be remembered in the States for this slice of cheesy, but undeniably catchy synth-driven social commentary, the band deserves just as much scorn as Van Halen for showing other metal bands that it was acceptable to lose the guitars and employ synthesizers to indulge in the sort of schmaltzy balladry that really did bring about the end of the world for hair metal.

Blue Oyster Cult - Don't Fear The Reaper

BOC guitarist Buck Dharma may not have written many songs, but he sure as hell made the few that he did write count, such as on the band's 1976 album Agents of Fortune, where Dharma had only two writing credits, but "Don't Fear The Reaper" was one of them (the other being "E.T.I.").

While the song is best remembered these days for insiring the beloved "More Cowbell" skit on Saturday Night Live with Christopher Walken and Will Ferrell, the lyrics paint a macabre picture of a couple whose love transcends the physical world, which might just be crumbling beneath our feet as we listen.

Prince - 1999

There are few songs that make the end of the world sound as much fun as Prince's "1999", which arrived in late '82 and immediately transformed Prince from a perpetual up-and-comer to a legitimate superstar.

Not only was this the first album to include a backing band (The Revolution), it marked the debut of recording engineer Susan Rogers, who would work with Prince for the next four years, enabling prince to concentrate solely on the creative side, sparking the most fruitful period of his entire career.

Sigue Sigue Sputnik - F1-11 Love Missile

To this day, I almost can't believe that Sigue Sigue Sputnik happened. Just the entire premise of the band, to this young rock fan at the time, was more performance art than a musical performance or, for that matter, art, yet the final product wound up being ten times more innovative than I could have ever suspected possible from those involved.

Tony James, of course, came directly from Billy Idol's Generation X and after James had watched Idol's career skyrocket while his remained landlocked. SSS was the ultimate revenge and, while it brought James some UK success, we here in the states continue to sleep on this innovative band, album, and song that perfectly captures the crass stupidity of the '80s Cold War and the constant threat of total annihilation that was ever-present in those days, as now.

Johnny Cash - The Man Comes Around

What begins like a normal folk song quickly turns into a slowly unfolding road map to the end times told by a master storyteller who, from what I've heard, spent a good portion of his life trying to get this song right.

It was also one of the last songs Johnny Cash would ever write before his death, appearing on the 2002 album American IV: The Man Comes Around.

Nena - 99 Luftballoons
To this day, one of the most joyously upbeat songs about nuclear destruction ever recorded. Initially released in January 1983, the song would take over a year to reach American shores, at which point MTV airplay helped propel the newly-released English-language version up the U.S. charts.

Oddly enough, the German version of the song continued to get airplay, with some Top 40 stations playing both versions intermittently.

Love & Rockets - Ball of Confusion

It isn't often that one feels the need to congratulate a band on besting the Temptations, but, truth be told, UK goth rockers Love & Rockets did just that with their recording of "Ball Of Confusion" and this writer is still trying to put a finger on just what it is that makes their version so remarkably durable after all these years.

In a perfect world, it would have been a bigger hit than the song the band eventually had a hit with a few years later ("So Alive"), but at least they had a hit with a tune they wrote (royalties!!).

Sisters of Mercy - Black Planet
Long before cookie monster metal and "that weird singer in the Crash Test Dummies" there was Andrew Eldritch, whose creepy-deep vocals made every Sisters of Mercy song sound as if it was pouring from the lips of a shivering corpse.

Naturally, a song about the charred remains of planet earth seems right own the band's alley and wound up becoming the centerpiece for the band's debut album, First And Last And Always, which was the only album to feature the classic line-up that included guitarists Wayne Hussey (later of The Mission UK) and Gary Marx.

The Fixx - Red Skies

When the Fixx arrived on the scene in the early '80s, U2 was still very much in their muscular rock phase, but, by 1985, it seemed as if The Edge had stolen all of Jamie West-Oram's schtick, helping U2 transition into a more nuanced version of themselves, if not the Fixx.

By then, oddly enough, The Fixx, themselves, seemed keen on changing their sound, too, opting for a more streamlined pop sound that, quite frankly, must have bored West-Oram to tears.

On this song, though, both guitarist and band are firing on all cylinders, creating a sound so dense with detail that you can almost walk around in the world that it creates.

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