Super-duper writer and knitting designer Jesse Loesberg is back as our guest on WG today. Like most of us, he's been giving quite a bit of thought to the election, one week(!) from today. Read on, but let's all hope that we won't have to worry about the Apocalypse after all...
Six Songs for the Apocalypse
Here in the San Francisco Bay Area, we all have the impression that an Obama victory on November 4th is a done deal. There’s only one McCain/Palin lawn sign within a five-mile radius of my apartment, and I’ve only seen one McCain bumper sticker in the last six months. And that was on a car that’s been sporting a Bush/Cheney sticker for the last eight years, so it really wasn’t a surprise.
On the rare moments that we’re willing to peek out through the shiny surface of our left-wing bubble, we are able to see that the rest of the country doesn’t necessarily feel the way we do, and an impending McCain/Palin presidency is not totally out of the question. For this reason, I’ve compiled a list of songs that will provide the soundtrack for the morning of November 5th, should this terrible event come to pass.
1. Traffic, “The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys”
Before Steve Winwood cheesed out in the 80s, he was a founding member of one of the seminal 1970s rock bands. “The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys,” ringing in at over ten minutes long, is the crowning moment of the album of the same name. Each verse posits an either/or question about some mysterious, deep, and abiding personal loss, and by the end of the song, we’re left with the impression that everything precious in our lives is at stake. This song also introduces a woefully unsung instrument, the Saxophone of Doom. If the Angel Gabriel ever bothered to listen to rock n’ roll, he’d abandon that ridiculous trumpet and start heralding the End of Days with a tenor sax. On this song, when Chris Wood blows that horn, you know you’ve just gambled away your last cent in a lousy off-the-strip casino, and the only thing you have left to your name is your shoes. No ordinary reed instrument, the Saxophone of Doom sounds as though it’s blowing from the other side of the void. How do you know you’re hearing it? You just know, man, you just know.
2. King Crimson, “Starless”
Long the province of progressive-rock geeks everywhere (and we don’t know any of those, do we? No, we certainly do not), King Crimson had its best years in the mid 1970s. Their 1974 release Red features this truly apocalyptic song. Right from its first lonesome, straining notes, you’re listening to a blasted, lifeless landscape, which, over the next ten minutes, evolves into one of the freakiest, most nuclear-explosive four-instrument jams ever recorded. And what instrument is center-stage at the end? The Saxophone of Doom! Sadly, the Saxophone of Doom turned into the Saxophone of Cheese as it entered the 80s, culminating in the work of Kenny G, who, if we’re going to be completely honest, represents his own kind of apocalypse.
3. Prince, “1999”
We may have all danced our little butts off to this song more times than we can count, but make no mistake: this song is about the end of the world. Especially the original version that appears on the album of the same name, which ends with that creepy, child-like voice asking, “Mommy, why does everybody have a bomb?” The interesting thing about “1999” is that it introduces the notion that the very last thing we should all do before the lights go out is party, party, party. Recorded in 1983, it also expressed through pop music the ancient idea that something huge and irreversible was going to happen at the turn of the millennium. And it did. Thank you, George W. Bush.
4. Modest Mouse, “Dashboard”
Dwelling more on implication that direct reference, this song brings us the apocalypse through lines like, “The dashboard’s all melted but we still have the radio,” and “I just want to catch the last laugh of this show.” It’s just as danceable as “1999,” but Modest Mouse isn’t as interested as Prince in giving you a good time. Isaac Brock’s schizophrenic vocal style makes you feel like things are about to fly off the handle at any moment—just like a certain Republican presidential candidate we all know. Feel free to ignore the lyrics to this song and just get on down . . . but you do so at your own peril.
5. Arcade Fire, “No Cars Go”
Unlike most indie bands these days, Arcade Fire is pretty much irony-free. For this reason, you’d think that “No Cars Go” would be totally bombastic and overblown. Which it is, but Winn Butler is totally obsessed with childhood, and he uses that obsession to make us realize that childhood’s secret places, where everything is going to be just fine, are dangerous fantasies. And when the s**t comes down, those fantasies are going to be the only things we have left. No other band recording today is so simultaneously apocalyptic and heartbreaking.
6. The Decemberists, “Sons and Daughters”
Who knew the end times would actually be a good thing? This is the last song on my post-McCain victory playlist, all because it has us all picking up the pieces and making it all OK. Sure, the polar ice caps are going to melt while the international credit markets collapse and the United States finally invades Iran, but “we’ll make our homes on the water, we’ll build our walls with aluminum, we’ll fill our mouths with cinnamon.” Doesn’t sound so bad, does it? Interestingly, the thought that the apocalypse will have some unintended benefits is gaining some traction in pop culture. Both the novel World War Z and the movie I Am Legend advance the idea that a sudden and massive reduction in the human population of the planet might not be a bad thing. A character in the latter example goes as far as to say that, with fewer people in the world, you can “hear God talking.”
Of course, Sarah Palin thinks she can hear God talking too, so I’d take the above with a grain of salt. And while you’re taking that grain of salt, listen to these songs, and go vote for Barack Obama.
So what will you be listening to if McCain wins on November 4th?
~ Jesse Loesberg