Good news! It’s finally Halloween.
Yes, I’m at Outside Lands this year, which means I can’t do much in the way of Halloween stuff. Major blunder on my part. But for those of you who are creeping out from the plague era and having parties for your vaccinated friends (and absolutely not the ones that aren’t), you need a playlist.
Over the past few years I’ve given you plenty of ideas, including an entire Halloween Month at one point. There’s a playlist of those choices but it’s only about an hour and a half long. You’re going to need to mine some deep cuts to flesh it out.
I’m here to help.
Bone Thugs-N-Harmony — “Hell Sent”
Let’s start with both bone thugs and harmony. I mean Bone Thugs-N-Harmony.
I mean, the group name has “bone” in it, so right there you’ve got a Halloween-appropriate start. But then the song this starts with creepy kids doing a nursery rhyme loading clips and killing, and the music they’re rapping over sounds like it came from a ’50s horror movie. It sounds exactly like the sort of song that would be playing at a Halloween party in a horror movie.
And if there’s one goal of a good Halloween party, it’s to make your guests wonder if they’re in a horror movie.
Nirvana — “Lake of Fire”
So here’s the thing about Halloween party playlists: You can’t get stuck in a rut of just creepy-sounding stuff. You’ve gotta throw in something that’s deceptively normal, until you notice that it’s nonsense that’s vaguely about hell.
It actually pains me to call this a deep cut, since the recording of Nirvana Unplugged is one of my favorite albums and this special is probably the best thing MTV has ever done, even before it became an endless binge of episodes of “Ridiculousness,” which nobody has ever even watched. But it’s not even a Nirvana song, so I’m counting it.
Janelle Monáe — “Come Alive (War of the Roses)”
OK, yes, this one is technically part of the Metropolis suite, a story about the rise of android Cindi Mayweather’s revolution and rise to power. It’s not actually scary. But, man… the bass riff, the screaming lyrics and it partially takes place in an asylum. It sure sounds like a Halloween song.
Also—and most importantly—you don’t listen to enough Janelle Monàe. Yes, you. I’ve been watching your Spotify activity and it’s getting a little sad. That’s a really weird album to listen to on repeat, dude.
The Human League — “Circus of Death”
Can a single be a deep cut? If it’s a Human League song that’s not “Don’t You Want Me,” it can be. Have you heard this song before? Exactly.
After two breaks from the spooky sounds, we’re back to the spooky sounds. I’ve never bothered to pay attention to the lyrics or what they’re about but sometimes it just doesn’t matter when you’re looking for a mood. The sound is a mood and “the circus of death is approaching” shouted in each chorus is a mood, so you’re good.
It’s really nowhere near as good as “Don’t You Want Me,” though. Kinda concerning that this was a single.
Billy Idol — “Eyes Without a Face”
I can’t justify this. It’s a well-known song. You’ve almost definitely heard it. It’s a Halloween playlist standby. I am absolutely cheating and I will own that.
Here’s the thing: This was supposed to be Tom Morello’s “The Devil’s Infantry,” off his lockdown EP The Catastrophists. Then I listened to it a couple more times and… it’s kinda a party killer. There’s a very long spoken word intro, which is never party-appropriate, before the beat drops, which is only appropriate for certain parties.
Then I remembered that I watched “The Voyeurs,” a fairly disappointing movie, on Amazon Prime. It tries way too hard and it’s too heavy-handed without ever being sure what it’s actually saying. But I digress: I think the filmmakers spent most of their budget licensing this song, and they should have spent it on screenwriters instead. But it’s super creepy, so it makes the list.
Anyway, happy Halloween. Scare an extra child or two for me. And if you see me at Outside Lands, probably don’t make eye contact with me because I’ll give you my media wristband and my coverage schedule, then I’ll run away while you become the new me.
Follow editor Daniel J. Willis and tweet column ideas to him at Twitter.com/BayAreaData.