Saturday, May 21, 2011

t's the End of the World as We Know It: 25 Songs for Judgment Day

According to engineer-turned-biblical scholar Harold Camping, we're all doomed on May 21, 2011. People have been talking about the end of time since, well ... pretty much the beginning of time; but so far only the dinosaurs have taken a hit. Still, it gives songwriters good fodder for songs about the ultimate encore. So, with our deadline fast approaching, we present our playlist to get prepped for the apocalypse.
'Apocalypse Please'
Muse (2003)
Current doomsday prophets might want to give this Muse song a close listen. The lyrics refer to religious fanatics who hope their D-Day predictions come true so their beliefs will be confirmed.

Doomed Lyric: "This is the end of the world, it's time we saw a miracle / Come on, it's time for something biblical"
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'The Day the Whole World Went Away'
Nine Inch Nails (1999)
Most Nine Inch Nails songs sound apocalyptic, especially 'We're in This Together' -- the other standout track on NIN's double-album 'The Fragile.' But this beautiful ballad, which soundtracked the trailer for 'Terminator: Salvation,' is actually about the end of the world. Really, what better song to play during Judgment Day?

Doomed Lyric: "It eats the fear it eats the pain / The sweetest price he'll have to pay / The day the whole world went away"
Nine Inch Nails
'Every Day Is Like Sunday'
Morrissey (1988)
Seriously, you're not surprised to seeMorrissey on this list, are you? Mr. Sunshine? This one is supposedly inspired by the Nevil Shute novel 'On the Beach,' about a group of people awaiting nuclear holocaust at a beach community in Australia.

Doomed Lyric: 'Armageddon -- come Armageddon! Come, Armageddon! Come!"
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'The Number of the Beast'
Iron Maiden (1982)
Why's the devil got to be so ... dark? With a nod to Revelations in the intro, we're warned here that the dark angel is hellbent on destruction. This one led many moms of teenage boys to conclude that the members of Iron Maiden might possibly be satanists. (They swore they weren't.)

Doomed Lyric: "I'm coming back, I will return / And I'll possess your body, and I'll make you burn"
Iron Maiden
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'Minutes to Midnight'
Midnight Oil (1984)
With the Cold War in mind, Midnight Oil, one of Australia's most politically conscious bands, wrote this song about the Doomsday Clock, which was established by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists to gauge how close humanity is to catastrophic destruction. In 1984 the clock was at three minutes to midnight, the closest to doom since 1953. Fortunately, the time isn't so bleak today: it's at six minutes before midnight.

Doomed Lyric: "I look at the clock on the wall / It says three minutes to midnight / Faith is blind when we're so near"
Midnight Oil
U2 (1983)
With war going on in the Falklands, the Middle East and South Africa, Bono once said, "war seemed to be the motif for 1982." So U2's third studio album (and first overtly political record) was titled 'War.' In this song, from the guys who would later give us 'Until the End of the World,' Bono sings about an accidental apocalypse caused by the proliferation of nuclear bombs.

Doomed Lyric: "Yes, they're doing the atomic bomb/They want you to sing along / Say goodbye, say goodbye, say goodbye, say goodbye"
'It's the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)'
R.E.M. (1987)
Generally, only the hardcore can recite all the lyrics to this apocalyptic word salad. But usually everyone can sing the intro and rejoin the band for the vigorous "LEONARD BERNSTEIN!" part. R.E.M. frontmanMichael Stipe has said he often dreams of the world's demise.

Doomed Lyric: "That's great it starts with an earthquake, birds and snakes an aeroplane"
'When the Man Comes Around'
Johnny Cash (2002)
One of the last songs Johnny Cash ever wrote, this lonely-sounding tune draws heavily from the Bible's Book of Revelation, also known as the Book of Revelation of St. John the Devine or, most appropriate for this piece, the Apocalypse of John. "The Man" here is not the police, but, rather, Jesus, who makes a return for the final showdown between good and evil.

Doomed Lyric: "Till Armageddon no shalam, no shalom / Then the father hen will call his chickens home"
Johnny Cash
PA Photos
'We Will Become Silhouettes'
The Postal Service (2005)
Most folks just remember the prettiness of the Postal Service collaboration between electronic producer Dntel and Death Cab for Cutie's Ben Gibbard. But it was also pretty freaking dark, and never more so than in this single, where Gibbard's sensitive-boy croon echoes around a fallout shelter.

Doomed Lyric: "Because the air outside will make our cells / Divide at an alarming rate until our shells / Simply cannot hold all our insides in/And that's when we'll explode / and it won't be a pretty sight"
The Postal Service
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'(I'll Love You Till) The End of the World'
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds (1991)
Almost any song from Wim Wender's classic film 'Until the End of the World,' in which an electromagnetic pulse destroys civilization, would fit this list, including U2's title track. But this Nick Cave rarity is among the singer's best songs -- the verses are practically spoken-word narratives of terror bombing gone awry mixed with crooning dedication to his woman.

Doomed Lyric: "Thank you girl, thank you girl / I'll love you till the end of the world / With your eyes black as coal and your long dark curls"
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds
'The End'
The Doors (1969)
Originally written as a breakup tune, this little number took on a trippy, we're-all-gonna-die meaning when it was used in the movie 'Apocalypse Now' ten years later. Psychedelic, foreboding and scary, it helps launch and conclude the film's story arc, taking the fictional Captain Willard from a drunken blackout to a mission in Cambodia that leads to the abyss of hell.

Doomed Lyric: "Kill kill kill kill kill kill!"
The Doors
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'Here Comes the Flood'
Peter Gabriel (1976)
Ironically, Peter Gabriel was preparing to leave Genesis -- a band named after (biblically speaking) the beginning of time -- when he wrote this song, which sounded (biblically speaking) like the end of it. But, you know, sometimes a bad breakup can seem like the end of the world.

Doomed Lyric: "Lord, here comes the flood / We'll say goodbye to flesh and blood"
Peter Gabriel
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'F--- Armageddon... This Is Hell'
Bad Religion (1981)
Since things are already really crummy on Earth, well, maybe this whole "everyone dies" thing isn't that scary after all. In this fast-fueled song, SoCal punkers Bad Religion talk about being judged before Judgment Day.

Doomed Lyric: "And when the final conflict comes, I'll be so sorry I did wrong / And hope and pray that our lord god will think I'm good"
Bad English
'London Calling'
The Clash (1979)
Inspired, in part, by the Three Mile Island nuclear accident that occurred a few months earlier, the Clash sing about the "nuclear error" in this punk classic, which also lists starvation and war as candidate's for the cause of humanity's demise.

Doomed Lyric: "The ice age is coming, the sun's zooming in / Meltdown expected, the wheat is growing thin"
The Clash
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'Doomsday Clock'
The Smashing Pumpkins (2007)
Remember what we said about the Doomsday Clock? In the Smashing Pumpkins' 'Zeitgeist' album frontman Billy Corgan, miffed at what he saw as an emerging fascist political climate, wrote about global warming, geopolitical crises and the inevitable end of it all.

Doomed Lyric: "Is everyone afraid? You should be ashamed / Apocalyptic screams mean nothing to the dead"
The Smashing Pumpkins
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'End Times'
The Eels (2010)
Given all the deaths he's endured, the man behind the EelsMark Oliver Everett, gets a pass for his tendency to write downer songs. This one, also inspired by what he calls "the desperate times we live in ... in an increasingly hostile world teetering on self-destruction" (and possibly Everett's own divorce) starts with a crazy bearded guy shouting that the end is coming.

Doomed Lyric: "The world is ending and what do I care / She's gone, end times are here"
The Eels
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'The Earth Died Screaming'
Tom Waits (1992)
Used in the post-apocalyptic film 'Twelve Monkeys,' this might have been inspired by the 1965 British film 'The Earth Dies Screaming,' which opens with trains derailing, cars smashing into walls, and people falling to their deaths. On an album noted for dark themes of death, suicide and murder, Waits employs devilish-sounding vocals in this major bummer.

Doomed Lyric: "There was thunder, there was lightning. then the stars went out / And the moon fell from the sky, it rained mackerel, it rained trout"
Tom Waits
'99 Red Balloons'
Nena (1983)
Though plenty eerie in its original German,Nena's accent gives the English version of this Cold War fear-pop song an even more otherworldly air. The New Wave synthscape is catchy, but it endures thanks to its nuclear holocaust lyrics, written in West Berlin with three minutes to midnight on the Doomsday Clock. It's a stark reminder that no matter how scary Osama was, the early '80s were lived on the eve of destruction.

Doomed Lyric: "If I could find a souvenir / Just to prove the world was here / And here is a red balloon / I think of you and let it go"
'Eve of Destruction'
Barry McGuire (1965)
During the turbulent '60s P.F. Sloan wrote about all the signs that the end was near: racism, war, religious hypocrisy. While it worked well with the anti-war movement, it also attracted patriotic rebuttals. EvenMcGuire, who later found religion, refused to perform his best-known hit for a while.

Doomed Lyric: "If the button is pushed, there's no runnin' away / There'll be no one to save, with the world in a grave"
Barry McGuire
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'Here's Your Future'
The Thermals (2006)
Oregon's premiere punk-pop trio theThermals delivered Sub Pop a terror-era magnum opus with their apocalyptic concept album 'The Body, the Blood, the Machine,' which imagined an America under the yoke of post-9/11 religious fanaticism. Its End Times aesthetic was most perfectly distilled in this prophetic rager in which a vengeful God reaches his hand down from the sky, demands subservience and then lets humanity knows where it stands.

Doomed Lyric: "Here's your future. It's gonna rain"
'Two Suns in the Sunset'
Pink Floyd (1983)
From the concept album 'The Final Cut,' which spoke of power-hungry world leaders (but mostly British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher), this track appropriately concludes the LP. Pink Floyd recorded 'Two Suns' as the Falklands War was heating up, with the second sun referring to an atomic blast that seemed inevitable given the proclivity toward war.

Doomed Lyric: "As the windshield melts, my tears evaporate / leaving only charcoal to defend / Finally I understand the feelings of the few"
Pink Floyd
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'Five Years'
David Bowie (1972)
David Bowie's doomsday scenario suggests the world will end in five years due to a lack of natural resources. In 'The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars' album, Bowie's spacey persona Ziggy Stardust -- a rock-n-roll alien messiah -- tries to send a message of love before it all ends. Sadly, it doesn't end well for the Martian.

Doomed Lyric: "Pushing through the market square, so many mothers sighing / News had just come over, we had five years left to cry in"
David Bowie
Prince (1982)
Heckwiddit, right? If the end of the world really is near, it's not like there's anythingwe can do about it. So get your purple on and let's partaaaaaay. That was Prince's logic as the weapons-of-mass-destruction buildup intensified during the Cold War. Years after the Soviet Union fell, the song took on new meaning when Y2K-scare mongers led us to believe 1999 really could be the final act.

Doomed Lyric: "Yeah, everybody's got a bomb, we could all die any day / But before I'll let that happen, I'll dance my life away"
Wire Image
'Bad Moon Rising'
Creedence Clearwater Revival (1969)
John Fogerty told Rolling Stone he was inspired to write this after seeing the movie 'The Devil and Daniel Webster.' "It was supposed to be apocryphal," he said. "At one point in the movie, there was a huge hurricane." Here CCR gives us the worst possible weather forecast. His best advice for dealing with deadly earthquakes, lightning and hurricanes? Stay inside.

Doomed Lyric: "Don't go around tonight, it's bound to take your life / There's a bad moon on the rise"
Creedence Clearwater Revival
'Land of Confusion'
Genesis (1986)
This entry in the Cold War canon is best known for its Grammy-winning music video featuring the UK's sketch-comedy puppet show 'Spitting Image.' But even without a felt Ronald Reagan having a nightmare about starting World War III, the song gets its nuclear point across as Phil Collinscroons about being "haunted by a million screams" and begs for Superman because...

Doomed Lyric: "The men of steel, the men of power / Are losing control by the hour"
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