Top Ten Songs of the Nuclear Apocalypse
t finally happened. Kim and George fell out in the chatroom (#world_leaders_looking_4_fun; drop by around seven if you still exist), and soon they’ll be falling out all over the world. The future looks bleak. Your back garden will soon be a dystopian mutant wasteland. And you never did put those shelves up.
Exactly what manner of music to listen to before you’re reduced to a charred outline is a complex and personal issue. If you’re anything like me though, you’ll just want to wallow in the impending doom of it all and lap up some hot hot nuclear-based songsmithery. Like so:
1. The Sisters of Mercy - “Dominion/Mother Russia"
Professional choirs and cheesy 80s drum machines—united at last! Jim Steinman shakes everything around in his magical voodoo production bag and pulls out a doll marked ‘epic’. Again. Meanwhile (“Yeah, yeah, meanwhile”) Doktor Eldritch rants on and on and on. Borrowing from Percy Shelley never sounded so good, and there’s enough enigmatic lyrical content here to satisfy painfully obsessed fanalyists for millennia to come. Except the world is ending, of course. The rest of us can throw our arms to the sky, embrace our fatality and chant “Mother Russia / Mother Russia / Mother Russia rain down, down, down” until concerned neighbours ask us politely to stop.
2. Ultravox - “Dancing With Tears In My Eyes"
I think we all realise that tears do not improve dancing skills. So it’s obviously quite poor dancing, then. The first verse talks about driving home, too; which doesn’t exactly suggest the greatest location for doing the fallout foxtrot (that pesky gearstick always gets in the way). Not to mention the fact that all those salt-water emissions are going to make it frightfully tricky to drive at all. Just because the planet is seconds away from eradication, it doesn’t mean you can forget your highway code. I’m extremely disappointed in you, Mr. Ure.
3. The Cure - “A Strange Day"
Almost an upbeat moment amidst the staggeringly oppressive atmosphere of Pornography. Of course ‘upbeat’ in the context of that album still means ‘about the end of the world’. Whether it specifically describes nuclear destruction is open to debate, but the lingering beauty of lines like “... the sky and the impossible explode” help to form a lonely picture of the precise moment where things simply cease to be. Those of you playing ‘Robert Smith Lyrical Bingo’ at home will be able to tick off “sky”, “eyes”, “sea” and “forever”. No mention of cats or mirrors though, sorry.
4. Kate Bush - “Breathing"
Particularly harrowing, even considering the subject matter. Post-apocalyptic survivor slowly dies through radiation poisoning. To the gentle strains of piano. With some added backing vocalists helpfully explaining that “We are all going to die”. Yes, thanks for that. There’s a great bit of random ‘documentary voiceover man talks us through the mechanics of a nuclear explosion’ in there too. An excellent juxtaposition there; rational science vs. human consequences, heightening the impact of Kate’s ever-expressive vocals. Might bring you down a bit too much though, even in the midst of challenging death to a blinking contest.
5. The Sound - “New Dark Age"
Slightly cheating, because I’m not entirely sure that this song is *really* about the kind of society you read about in all those epic sci-fi novels which spring up after a nuclear war. But in my head, it is. Plus the title kind of fits and the song is amazing, so what the hell? No-one’s going to be around to complain anyway. The BBC session version is best, as the drumming sounds even more cavernous than normal; Adrian Borland sings like a condemned man and his guitar work sounds like the intensely crackling flames of a funeral pyre (“They’re burning witches / Up on punishment hill”). Yum!
6. Frankie Goes To Hollywood - “Two Tribes"
Documentary voiceover man returns! Fresh from his work with Kate Bush, he pops in to chat with Frankie about air-attack warnings. Why does documentary voiceover man always add such greatness to a track? He undoubtedly has magic powers—other artists should take note. This record gave us the immortal words “When two tribes go to war / Money’s all that you can score”, which is really all you can ask of a piece of music. It also features some faux-orchestral stuff which is probably ripped off from somewhere really obvious that I don’t know about. Unfortunately, you don’t have time to listen to all fifty-seven remix versions before the missiles impact.
7. Nena - “99 Red Balloons"
Ahh, a lovely, harmless pop song... OR IS IT? Predictably; no. It’s a bit like that WarGames film, where some kid accidentally stumbles across a military training program entitled Global Thermonuclear War and sparks off WWIII. Which is as good an excuse to stick to playing Horace Goes Skiing as I’ve ever heard. Anyway, in the song, various gallant military types are (perhaps even more bafflingly) confused by red balloons—rather than computer blips; but the results are much the same. I suppose it contains an important message about the importance of not being so damn twitchy during a nuclear standoff. Also comes in German form.
8. Edwin Starr - “War"
War—good for absolutely nothing. Official. Except for crushing your enemies and stuff, I suppose. Would probably sound rather bittersweet in the midst of a nuclear attack (yet still utterly stomping). And that’s why I chose it.
9. Morrissey - “Every Day Is Like Sunday"
Moz calmly explains that the coastal town across whose beach he is currently trudging is a prime candidate for Armageddon. Which seems a little harsh to me. We’ve all had bad holidays, but it takes a special level of vindictiveness to punish excessive dullness with radioactive termination. Still, it’s a timely reminder that the apocalypse might actually bring good news for some people. Morrissey would be dead too, but I’d wager that he finds it a small price to pay for seeing every single one of his pet hates blown away in an instant. Possibly. I still think he’d be happier buying an icecream and checking out the arcades though.
10. The Comsat Angels - “After The Rain"
Because during the total annihilation of all human life it’s just bound to be bloody raining too, isn’t it? Will there be an ‘after’ where I can properly complain about this? I certainly hope so.
By: Peter Parrish
Published on: 2004-05-12