ApocalypseWomble

I'm a philosopher, writer, artist, and reviewer of science fiction and fantasy in all its glorious forms. You can find me over on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/Rhube and Tumblr at: http://rhube.tumblr.com/ .

Music for the Apocalypse #48: Belong, by REM

This is one of those odd songs that you can listen to and enjoy several times before you start listening to the lyrics and are startled into realising that it isn’t your typical pop or rock song. Unlike REM’s ‘It’s the End of the World as we Know it’,  ‘Belong’ isn’t gleefully belting it’s end apocalyptic credentials. It’s a quiet song with a soothing tone, offering us a mother’s mantra to her child:

[She] Stood and whispered to her child: belong
She held the child and whispered
With calm, calm, belong

The spoken lyrics are said in the same calming mode that we imagine the mother must be using with her child, and it’s easy to be soothed by them into not listening. But when one does, the words are striking indeed:

Her world collapsed early Sunday morning
She got up from the kitchen table
Folded the newspaper and silenced the radio
Those creatures jumped the barricades
And have headed for the sea, sea

There’s clearly a metaphorical mode to this. The video ties the song to a political message – the creatures jumping the barricades perhaps representing protestors fighting for freedom. But the song resists a direct, simplistic meaning. Such a broad, political meaning is contrasted with the deeply personal opening line. It is her world that has collapsed, and the little mundane details speak to a smaller, more personal event, the sort of thing that could go utterly unnoticed by the rest of the world. It is ‘early Sunday morning’ – a time evocative of peace and solitude: it’s early, before other people are up and moving about; it’s a spiritual time, in the Christian religion, and an empty time, in that (for Christians) work is forbidden – it’s evocative of the stillness and echoing quiet of churches. She gets up from the table, folds her newspaper, turns off the radio – the sort of details one would only put in a story – much less a song – unless they has some significance, and yet, there is nothing momentous in the actions themselves. Three lines are devoted to these very ordinary notes in a song that opens dramatically about the world (or her world) collapsing, yet fails to say why. What the barricades are. What the creatures are.

And we must note the oddity that it is not people who are describes jumping the barricades, but ‘creatures’. Even in metaphor, it is a startling phrase. If these are protestors fighting for freedom, it is strange that they should be cast in such an alienating light. But equally, if the creatures jumping the barricades is the cause of the world collapsing, it seems odd that they are headed to the sea, presumably away from the mother and child at home. And, moreover, the mother is inspired by them:

She began to breathe
To breathe at the thought of such freedom

It sounds as though she has been inspired to rebel, possibly against her own domesticity, the smallness of the details of her life. But then, one has to wonder, why does she tell the child to ‘belong’, which has such connotations of conformity, or repressing individuality?

I don’t think this song is meant to be open to an easy reading. I think it is meant to sooth us and wake us up at the same time. The calming voice of the spoken lyrics is contrasted with the hopeful (yet also somewhat melancholy?) wordless singing that rises up above the monotone, like a bird soaring to freedom. I suspect it is in part meant to express the unavoidable tension between our need to belong and our need to be free to express ourselves and control our own destiny. Which, of course, is central to the appeal of apocalyptic fiction. We imagine the apocalypse in part to scare ourselves – we depict it as hard and wild and dangerous – but also because we long for a peace and solitude that is unattainable in the press of rules and restrictions, and even the bodies of our fellow humans… the barricades can only hold for so long before we long to burst free.

I think this song shows the real genius of poetry in REM’s music, and I think, when the barricades break and the world collapses, this would be a very good song to listen to, contemplating the uncertain future. And I can’t help but not that it is particularly appropriate for the girls of the apocalypse, some of whom may be mothers with babes in their arms to care for.

– Apocalypse Womble out

Christmas Music for the Apocalypse: Redux – Playlist 1 & 2012 bonus tracks

This is an apocalypse Christmas if ever there was one, with the Mayan calendar ending just a few days ago, it cannot be doubted that these are the end times. And no Apocalypse Girl can be without a little apocalypse cheer in these dark days.

Last year we gave you a Christmas Music for the Apocalypse Playlist, this year, we’ve revamped the old one, replacing dead videos, and made you a brand new one with brand new songs!

Even if the literal apocalypse hasn’t reached your household yet, you may be in need of a little light relief from the usual Christmas fair your family insists on playing. Trest yourself to these tunes, both bleak and chipper, and feel the hectic Christmas holiday world melt away.

Playlist 1

The eagle-eyed amongst you may have noticed that some of the videos that were a part of the list last year had been deleted. These have now been replaced, and the list is whole again.

We’d also like to remind you that most, if not all, of these songs are available for purchase at the following sites:

Track List
#1 Christmas at Gound Zero, by Weird Al Yankovic
#2 Stop the Cavalry, by Jona Lewie
#3 Carol of the Old Ones, by the HP Lovecraft Historical Society
#4 Chiron Beta Prime, by Jonathan Coulton
#5 Death to the World, by the HP Lovecraft Historical Society
#6 A Post Apocalyptic Christmas, by Art Elliot
#7 Little Rare Book Room, by the HP Lovecraft Historical Society
#8 Post Apocalypse Christmas, by Gruff Rhys
#9 Old Men’s Brains (A Zombie Christmas), by Julie Webster
#10 The Night Santa Went Crazy, by Weird Al Yankovic
#11 Nuclear Winter, by The Department of Public Safety (can’t find an mp3 anywhere! I’ll gladly link if you know one)
#12 Silent Night, Blasphemous Night, by the HP Lovecraft Historical Society
#13 The Power of Love, by Frankie goes to Hollywood
#14 Have Yourself a Scary Little Solstice, by the HP Lovecraft Historical Society

Playlist 2: 2012 bonus tracks

I’ll be honest, I snatched the most professional apocalypse-themed Christmas songs for last year’s playlist, but the Internet is a creative place, and there are some fun little ditties floating round YouTube. Most of these you can’t download and buy and seem to be just on YouTube for now, but let’s show our support – if you like the tune, go like the vid!

Tracks:
#1 Happy Christmas (It’s the End of the World), by Trojaniksr
#2 Post Apocalypse Christmas Song, by Matt Falk
#3 Apocalypse Not Now, by Polly Wolf
#4 Have Yourself A Merry Apocalypse ( Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas Parody), by ROSE!
#5 “All I Want For Christmas Is You” PARODY Zombie Apocalypse, by AmandasChronicles
#6 Zombie Christmas Medley, by James Lacey and Edith Murphy

Music for the Apocalypse #46: Insect Nation, by Bill Bailey

Comedy, the most essential of tools in your survival kit. If you can’t keep your morale up, you’ll be lost, so keep this song from master musician and comedian, Bill Bailey, to hand. Especially if you find yourself to be a human slave in an insect nation.

And remember: the spiders are not insects, but in the war they will side with the insects.

- Apocalypse Womble out.

Music for the Apocalypse #45: We Are The Champions, by Queen

Not all songs suitable for the Apocalypse have to be depressing and downbeat. When the end comes I want to go out fighting – I want to cheer my sisters on and win the day. It’s impossible not to feel uplifted by this song. The slow, the swell of the melody, building throughout the song provides the perfect counter-point to the tired and plodding beat. This is a song for the downtrodden who are not beaten. This is a song for celebration in a hard world.

We are the champions, my friends. The champions of the world.

- Apocalypse Womble out.

 

Hurricane Sandy

The Internet is a burst with Sandy. Hurricane Sandy, that is. There are posts about fictional Weather-pocalypses, and everyone seems to want to give you a playlist for the Franken Storm, even The Guardian. Tuesdays is usually the day when I try to get a Music for the Apocalypse up for you guys, but this Tuesday… I feel like everyone else has done it for me. There was also an element of questioning the clammering to use an international disaster to drive hits to your blog. It’s… a sensitive area. However, one of the amazing things about Sandy has been the buoyant spirit of those in the path of the storm, sticking two fingers to the ‘cane and battening down the hatches. So, instead, I’ve decided to look at some of the wonderful things other people have done to bring hope and joy and laughter to each other.

Some people met the hurricane in swimming trunks and a horse’s head.

Jimmy Kruyne has taken credit for this little piece of joy, having tweeted ‘The news crew is down the block, Im thinking horse mask and swimming trunks?

Props should also be given to David Tra for one-upman ship:

The caption on YouTube pleasingly reads ‘On a scale of one to horsehead jogger…’, and whilst I think videoing yourself is not quite the same as high-jacking national news coverage, you have to admire a man who, according to Metro, said: ‘I see your shirtless, horse-head jogger and raise you a shirtless, unicorn-head roller-blader.’

Some people took slightly mean pleasure in tricking Twitter users into retweeting pictures of other storms. istwitterwrong has made an excellent post debunking these. Whilst others responded by satirising this practice and tweeting links to pictures like these:

Click here to see image

click to see image

Naturally, spoof twitter accounts popped up for the hurricane itself:

click to the Twitter pageAnd amidst all this good humour, good people were also on the ground, helping each other out. Witness this haunting image of ambulances moving patients from one hospital where the power had gone out to another:

click to see original Twitter status

Meanwhile, 190 firefighters battled through the night to tackle a catastrophic fire that had broken out in Queens, and Emily Rahimi, a seven year veteran of the Fire Department of New York sat by a Twitter feed through the night providing vital support to people who couldn’t get through the over-taxed 911 calls. Truly a woman you’d want with you, come the apocalypse.

If this were in Britain, we’d call it ‘Dunkirk Spirit’, but really it’s just the simplicity and goodness of people pulling together in a crisis, to stand by one another and keep their spirits up. Not just the heroes, although we should never undermine the work they do, but the jokers who bring us around to the funny side of our situation – who play us a song, or make a silly image, or run around in the rain with a horse mask on their head.

To all of the people keeping it together in the face of Sandy, we at the Girls’ Guide to Surviving the Apocalypse salute you.

Music for the Apocalypse #44: Till the world ends, by Britney Spears

OK, I don’t think this song is set to be an apocalypse classic, but you have to give her props for exploiting the 2012-Mayan-calendar-end-of-the-world theme. I’m surprised more pop-stars haven’t gone for it, to be honest.

The first half of this song is fairly standard mindless noise that doesn’t really seem to have anything to do with the apocalypse, but keep with it, around 2:35 it kicks off into something a bit different and more interesting:

See the sunlight, we ain’t stoppin’

Keep on dancing till the world ends

If you feel it, let it happen

Keep on dancing till the world ends

It’s still a pretty simple lyric, but the timbre shifts from the standard dance beat to a softer, more open sound as the melody rises to echo the rising of the sun in the lyric and I have to admit, I get a tingle. It is evocative of a survivor emerging from their hidey hole after some tumultuous disaster has swept over them, to see the still destruction in the dawn light. It’s not Mozart, but it earns it a place in our post-apocalypse playlist.

Credit is also due to director Ray Kay for creating a music video that is rather more spectacular than the song. This is a pretty stunning depiction of the apocalypse. I’m not quite sure what sort of apocalypse it is, but I’m also not quite sure that I care. It’s very pretty. Equally, the frenetic choreography of the dancers (who are maybe engaged in some kind of sex-death ritual, maybe zombies (probably sex-zombies, if there is such a thing), or just the world’s most committed ravers) evocatively capture what  all songs of this type are getting at: i.e. whether you’re dancing like it’s 1999 or like it’s the end of the world the music is taking you to a frenzied beat that shakes passion off it like sweat. It’s the ‘quick! The four minute warning! Find someone to screw!’ impulse mixed with dancing like your life depends on it. Both themes are exciting and evocative of the sex-death link that has fascinated theorists like Freud.

It’s a simple idea with no real distracting depth, but it’s nicely realised. It’s a 2012 themed song – I felt it did have to make the list before the year was out.

Music for the Apocalypse #43: Flash, by Queen

As a girl equipped to survive the apocalypse, I’m not generally inclined to wait around for a man to save me – chances are I’ll still be sitting there when the zombies eat me. Or the man will have been manfully hiding a bite and will turn into a zombie and eat me. But it’s hard not to hear this song and feel cheered. I feel it has a place in a post apocalypse world.

Also? The women in Flash Gordon are awesome. Especially General Kala. I mean, if the Apocalypse is coming, why not be in charge of its armies?

'What do you mean, "Flash Gordon approaching"?!'

General Kala

 

 

And as villains go, this is some kind of formiddable woman:

What do you mean, ‘Flash Gordon approaching’?!

Open fire! ALL weapons.

No half-measures with this lady. I challenge anyone to deny that this is a woman who commands respect with her every gesture, look, and tone.

General Kala: Apocalypse Girl extraordinaire.

Dale Arden

Dale Arden

And let’s not forget Dale Arden. Not without fight in her, and even as she calls out: ‘Flash! Flash! I love you’ She adds as though to call him back to the matter at hand: ‘But we only have fourteen hours to save the Earth!’

Yeah, I think, come the apocalypse, this’ll be one I’m glad to have in my record collection.

Cats of the Apocalypse

Cats of the Apocalypse, by ChateNoir

Cats of the Apocalypse, by ChateNoir

Any apocalypse girl would be wise to keep a cat with her once the world ends, for comfort, companionship, and to kill the mice and rats that will be attracted to your food store. But before the end you’d be wise to keep an eye out for these kitties. These are no ordinary domesticated cats, and they will drag your world to Hell.

Music for the Apocalypse #42: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Theme

It’s number 42. It was mandatory.

For those not in the know, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is the book you will need if ever the Earth is destroyed to make way for a hyper-spatial bypass and you are stranded, hitchhiking around space with your best-friend who turns out to be an alien, his double-headed cousin who’s sort of the President of the Universe, and someone you fell in love with at a party in Islington and then never saw again until after the end of the world. Alternately, it is a series of books, or a film, or a radio series, or a TV show about that book and a person who has just such an adventure. Or a website that was trying to do a light-hearted version of Wikipedia before there were wikis. This is the theme tune for the TV Show, and I think you’ll agree that it’ll help you not to panic when the Earth explodes.

According to the Guide, 42 is the Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything. So. You know.

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