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Music

Found Genres #2: The Soundtrack to Satan's Life

Not the demonic metal that pleads for the Dark Lord's favor but genuinely tormented music suitable for clearing all but the truly damned from a party.

Sure, he's the Fallen Angel and the universal representation of evil, but Satan likes to party, just like anyone else. Hell may not be a non-stop South Beach with fire and brimstone substituting for fame and Botox, but this doesn't mean Lucifer doesn't like to get down and get funky. Truth be told, old Pitch is the original impious par-tay animal, a corrupt combination of John Blutarsky, former congressman Wilbur Mills, and Spuds McKenzie. Besides, he's so good at what he does that he deserves a break once in a while. Give him a disgruntled postal worker, an office full of victims, and a loaded automatic rifle, and it's business as usual for Mr. 666. But after humanity has had its fill of sin and iniquity, when the last of the damned are condemned and the pious are tempted, the Devil gets a chance to let down his pitchfork and kick up his hooves. Then it's a few molten mojitos and a couple dozen trips down the sulfurous slip-n-slide.

Of course, Mephistopheles has a soundtrack for his relaxation, but, no, known noxious fad gadgets like Hilary Duff, Ashley Simpson or The Pussycat Dolls do not make it onto his iPod. And if it screams about the number of the beast or unswerving allegiance to the Dark One, it typically falls on his deaf goblin-like ears. Tracks like Napoleon XIV's "They're Coming to Take Me Away" or Wall of Voodoo's "Grandma's House" are too obvious, while true earworm evil like "Eres Tu" by Las Mocedades or the sensationally syrupy "Shannon" by Henry Gross usually gets the fiend ready for a full-blown damned-souls orgy. In fact, the Devil has a soft spot for music that mixes malevolence with some corruption camouflage, preferring sounds that mask their evil in intentions both noble and naïve.

Here are 13 albums that make up the backbone of Beelzebub's own party mix. The next time you want to clear out a kegger or just want to get your swerve on Lord of the Flies-style, grab this baneful baker's dozen and prepare to meet your unmaker. He'll be waiting, highballs of Hate in hand.

The Shaggs, Philosophy of the World (1969)

The most frightening family act in the history of recorded music, the Wiggins gals single-handedly redefined the concept of what exactly is a song. Like sentences without grammar, Dot Wiggins’s compositions, odes to Jesus, cars and her pet cat, are like prayers to a pagan god. Sister Helen was a drummer without a downbeat and Betty banged on her "rhythm" guitar in a manner antithetical to its name. Add Dot's linear axe lines of alleged melody, and you have a sonic sludge that combines to create an almost supernatural sense of purpose. For anyone looking for the dogmatic foundation behind Satan's bestial belief system, just give the title track a spin. It's its own compact Black Mass.

Lester "Roadhog" Moran and the Cadillac Cowboys, Alive at the Johnny Mack Brown High School (1974)

A little demonic bird tells us that this recording is nothing more than a one-off novelty by country singing sensation the Statler Brothers. No matter its in-joke origins, this attempted comedy cavalcade is the aural equivalent of sitting through your child's preschool ballet recital (now that’s frightening). The accuracy with which the Statlers "re-create" the atonal bray of an amateur bluegrass band is inherently disturbing, and add in the bad morning radio show and in-concert cacophony and you've got the sound of every media day down below. Oddly enough, this LP contains the only version of "Church in the Wildwood" that Satan can listen to without his tail tingling.

Lou Reed, Metal Machine Music (1975)

Ah, welcome to the world's first mental purgative. Second only to Reed's supposed singing as a source of aural aggravation, this double album dose of arrhythmic feedback and guitar droning is perfect for those days when melody and harmony just won't satisfy your aural itch. Unlike Reed’s other solo output, M3 avoids the Brill Building-meets-bondage pop of his typical three-minute muse. Instead, the original release was a trackless terror, mandating that entire sides be listened to before the next "selection" could be experienced. Guaranteed to give your ganglia a good tweaking, The Dark One enjoys sticking this one on whenever the local undead teen idols stop by to reminisce about the glory days of payola-oriented AM radio.

Wild Man Fisher, Wildmania (1977)

Frank Zappa found him and recorded him but unfortunately, Larry "Wild Man" Fisher enjoyed this taste of proto-fame and wanted a wee bit more. Rhino Records, looking for a hook to publicize their first vinyl release, gave Fisher his second shot at a spot in the limelight. Larry took the chance and delivered a mostly a capella assault so primal that it's like a Neanderthal's idea of performance art. Whether he's bellowing his name in a singsong screed or pimping for his new recording label, this collection of cracked operatics is primal-scream therapy as pop music. If you ever wondered what an album of asylum patient ramblings would sound like, Larry is more than happy to deliver the derangements.

Suicide, Suicide (1978)

While punk was percolating down in the Village and disco was dominating the Upper East Side, the sinister synth pop duo of Alan Vega (vocals) and Martin Rev (electronics) twisted the technology available into a demented deconstruction of the entire rock-and-roll dynamic. As eerie organ clouds float above dirge-like drum machine beats, Vega vents his scattered, shattered soul, inhabiting his songs low-rent characters as if he were possessed by their demons. As he hiccupped and yelped in a greaser-gone-gangrenous manner, Rev took minimalism to a whole new level of abstraction. While the Devil finds the haunting, harrowing "Frankie Teardrop" to be the LP's shock-value centerpiece, he is far more disturbed by the metropolitan melancholy of the brittle, bracing "Cheree". There's just something about a love song that rubs the Antichrist the wrong way.

Bow Wow Wow, Your Cassette Pet (1980)

Leave it to the unwell mind of the manager who mangled the Sex Pistols to put pedophilia and home taping together in the same marketing scheme. Borrowing Adam Ant's back-up band, Malcolm McClaren pegged teen siren Annabella Lwin to be the front women for his new "African-inspired" crew, and then filled her mouth with a mélange of antisocial stances. The group's first single ("C30, C60, C90 – GO!") celebrated the joy of pirate recordings decades before Napster made it geek cool, and McClaren always amplified Lwin's underage carnality. From the tape's opening track (which featured Lwin longing for her Louis Quatorze-inspired bad boy) to an ode to the Eiffel Tower's sexiness, this is retread rockabilly laced with jailbait jungle noises.

The Village People, Renaissance (1981)

When this group was stuck in homoerotic discotheque mode, the Mangoat couldn't have cared less. But once their record label and their songwriter-Svengali Jacques Morali abandoned them, the Village went blitz, attempting to mimic the New Romantic wave sweeping over Britain. The result was a worthless LP of dance-lite drudgery, made worse by the group's sloppy ersatz Steve Strange makeover. Reminiscent of what the post-plastic surgery Pete Burns (of Dead or Alive fame) looks like today, the People should have known it would never work. No one can make the transition from quasi-closeted novelty act to Ultravox offshoot with eyeliner alone.

Anti-Nowhere League, We Are the League (1982)

Here's an update for all you PMRC pundits -- heavy metal does not contain subliminal statements from a certain Hades inhabitant. Satan is much more direct than that. He simply got the Anti-Nowhere League to write an entire album of overt homages to outright evil and was done with it in one fell post-punk swoop. Using every curse word created and even inventing a few more along the way, the League sang paeans to misogyny, perversion, STDs and the joy in hating everybody on the planet. Celebrating their lack of morals and personal hygiene, the League vented their ever-present anger in voices dipped in too many pints and a decade on the dole. While some saw them as nothing more than a piss poor slam dance stereotype, the Devil still loves their moxie -- and their message.

The Residents: The Big Bubble (1983)

As part four of their musical mindfuck known as the Mole Trilogy (???), San Francisco's avant-garde auteurs decided to create a phony musical combo, and then provide that faux band with an album all their own. The premise was relatively simple: In an ongoing battle between the Moles and the Chubs, the Big Bubble would try to mend some fences by being the first Chub group to play ethnic Mole music (got that?). The resulting 11 atonal amalgamations instantly become the most difficult LP in the Residents frequently flummoxing repertoire. Lyrics are sketchy; rhythms slow and lumbering. Voices are affected and slightly askew, while the accompaniment sounds like a calliope and a cat being simultaneously crushed to death. This is the kind of peace offering Satan can get behind, one guaranteed to cause more hatred than harmony.

Crispin Hellion Glover, Big Problem =/= The Solution. The Solution = Let It Be (1989)

Here's a combo aimed directly at the Devil's dirty bits: Hollywood's most prickly, insular performer and the dudes who made "Fish Heads" a well known novelty hit. While most of the album consists of Glover reading from his "found" novels, Oak Mot and Rat Catching, the few song selections earn their own circle in everyone's favorite Inferno. Cover material ranges from Charles Manson to Nancy Sinatra, while the originals focus on masturbation, hygiene, and all things clown. Though not a natural singer (actually, Glover is not much of a 'natural' anything), Glover milks every moment for maximum unsettled surrealism; you can't take the performer away from the performance. As his voice cracks and quavers, his disturbingly disjointed imagery pollutes everything in its path. Toxic waste and radioactivity wish they were as life threatening as these loony laments.

Julee Cruise, Floating Into the Night (1989)

Bet you didn't know David Lynch is Satan's favorite filmmaker. Indeed, when he's feeling a little under the weather, Satan can be found in his condo, curled up on his divan, a box of tissues in hand and an endless loop of Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me playing on the big screen (if he's really depressed, it's Blue Velvet). Cruise was once Lynch's musical messenger, a scaled-down chanteuse for the peculiar tone poems the director designed with longtime collaborator, composer Angelo Badalamenti. While the dreamy, delicate ballads and occasional up-tempo number seem hostile to Hell's blasphemous intentions, like they say, the Devil's in the details. As her voice hovers, sounds moments away from dissolving and disappearing, Lynch and Badalamenti add unusual time signatures, infinite echo and the odd orchestral flourish to constantly confuse the mood.

Fred Lane, From the One That Cut You/Car Radio Jerome (1998)

Starting with references to the base of an internal organ ("Fun in the Fundus") and moving on to even more sickening subjects, the so-called Reverend (actually Alabama wind-sculpture artist T.R. Reed) and his band of rock pop jazz-fusion felons find the link between horror, humor and hatred and then piss all over it with their jaundiced little jingles. Perhaps the most undeniably depraved recording ever conceived, the aural offal contained on this CD has been known to raise the dead, open the portals of Hell and reverse the River Styx -- sometimes, all at once. In an album full of foulness, the most disturbing turn is a jolly little kiddie tune about a guy who sells moldy breakfast treats out of the back of his van. In fact, the French Toast Man keeps his fungus invested bread, along with a couple of dead rats, in a filthy unwashed sock. Tasty!

Bob Mould, Modulate (2002)

Modulate marks the moment when one of rock's most powerful, poetic songwriters decided to ditch his previous brilliance for a shot at some decent DJ cred. The result was akin to listening to Moby make mudpies. Like all experiments by an artist attempting to “grow”, this one resulted in almost instant alienation from the majority of the Mould faithful. Unfortunately, the next natural step -- begrudging acceptance -- never came along. That unsettling sound you heard upon release was thousands of Hüsker Dü fans openly weeping. And just behind their sobs, Armageddon's architect was quietly giggling -- and doing a mean Gumby.

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