Play the Strings of Your Death

I know I usually post these on Saturdays, but for most of October one person or another at work has shared some music that helps them get in the mood for Halloween. This week, all of the suggestions had that theme. And since Halloween is on a Friday, I’m posting this a day early.

FYI – Here’s how I rate things. If I give something one star, it means I don’t think it qualifies as music. Five stars mean I wish I wrote the thing. Most music for me is a three.

Dead Man’s Bones’ self-titled (2009)

This album was not supposed to be an album. This was intended to be a soundtrack to a play about a monster/ghost love story.

A play written and produced by Ryan Gosling.

Scrapping the stage show when costs became prohibitive, they already had songs written and decided to continue. The result is this collection of songs about werewolves and zombies. It doesn’t feel like a soundtrack, just a themed album, which is kinda impressive. I don’t know if they had to change things, but it works.

And it features the children’s choir from the Silverlake Conservatory of Music, a music education non-profit founded by Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist, Flea.

Let me start by saying I really like this album, but I’m not sure I could listen to the whole thing all year long. Maybe mixed in from time to time. 3/5

In the Room Where You Sleep is one of the exceptions. Musically, it feels retro. And while still creepy, the lyrics aren’t inherently Halloweeny. Halloweenie? My Body’s a Zombie for You isn’t bad either. It has great moments, but only moments. I did really like the line,

Oh, I hold my soul
From the lands unknown
So I can play the strings of your death

It just seemed macabre-ly appropriate. And those are the highlights. It’s a great album for October, but just okay for the rest of the year.

I never would have pegged Ryan Gosling as making this. Admittedly, the only thing I think I’ve seen him in is Remember the Titans, but still.

Meat Loaf – Bat out of Hell (1977)

Oh man. How did I not see this coming. Especially from Tim.

I almost owned this album once. I was at a music store (back when people actually went to a brick-and-mortar store to buy physical CDs) and got into a conversation with a kinda weird dude. The only thing I remember about the conversation is that at the end of it, the guy said he’d either buy me this album or Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. I could choose, but I had to promise I’d give whatever he bought me an honest listen.

I went with Elton John, but I’m still not convinced it’s his best stuff.

I guess the conversation could have been about albums I thought were overrated or at least I didn’t understand why people liked, but I honestly hadn’t given a chance.

Well, I guess I’m giving this album a chance now.

Sometimes it’s a soft rocker playing hard rock, and sometimes it’s a hard rocker playing soft rock. I’m never quite sure what’s going to come next. At his worst, it sounded like a mix between Billy Joel, Poison and Murray Head. There were some musical parts that were awesome, but no song as a whole was something I’d go back to and cherish.

The production level was great. I liked the prog-ish arrangements. But sometimes the songs just went on and on and on. I have to admit I wasn’t always paying attention to the lyrics, but pretty much everything I heard was – in the immortal words of Jack Black – “sentimental tacky crap. (WARNING: After Jack Black stops talking, you might want to stop listening. There does come some language.)” Plus I don’t really like Meat Loaf’s voice.

And then there was some really friggin’ weird stuff. Like the opening to You Took the Words Right out of My Mouth. What was that!? Can I have that minute of my life back? Or the baseball play-by-play/make-out session in the middle of Paradise by the Dashboard Light? Can I have that minute back, too?

Does this get me in the Halloween mood? Not so much. 2/5. If someone else came along and wrote different words to all of this music, I’d listen to it. As it is, it’s okay, but I’ll never seek Meat Loaf out again. Maybe a $5 hot-and-ready….

The Rocky Horror Picture Show soundtrack (1975)

I’m not sure I’ve ever listened to this whole soundtrack before. And did you know Meat Loaf was IN The Rocky Horror Picture Show? He played Eddie.

From the second track, it’s just quirky-funny. Is it really Halloweeny? Not totally, but it does feel like classic Halloween songs like The Monster Mash. Is it good? Yeah, mostly. Musically, this is a solid album. A lot of it just feels like oldies rock and roll, especially Meat Loaf’s number. Although, I Can Make You a Man is kinda boring for me.

Lyrically, you don’t have to know (or understand, which I don’t) the story of the show to appreciate the songs, which really helps any soundtrack stand alone. Sweet Transvestite and Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch Me don’t really have the best content. And Rose Tint My World isn’t great either.

Not that this has a lot to do with the soundtrack, but I think my first introduction to the music from The Rocky Horror Picture Show was via Whose Line is it Anyway?

And after that, it was Me First and the Gimmie Gimmies and Suburban Legends.

I might not listen to this whole album ever again. I mighty only ever seek out covers. But this is a pretty good album. And a good Halloween album. 3/5

Tiger Army – Music from Regions Beyond (2007)

At first glance, this may not seem like a Halloweeny album. But if any of you are fans of the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland, you’ll recognize the title of this album from a line of dialogue by Madame Leota during the séance. Tiger Army also appeared on the Nightmare Revisited tribute album to The Nightmare before Christmas playing Oogie Boogie’s song (Rodigo y Gabriela also did a version on that album).

These guys’ music is mostly classified as psychobilly. Rockabilly is the kind of country rock and roll Elvis and 1950’s Johnny Cash played. It had a huge influence on The Beatles’ early stuff. It had a revival a ‘80s/’90s – mainly in the form of Brian Setzer’s Stray Cats, but then Brian Setzer moved on to the big band swing revival of the ‘90s. While he went more jazz, bands like Tiger Army took rockabilly and added the punk rock of the ‘80s to become psychobilly. Other psychobilly bands like the HorrorPops and the Nekromantix (and even Tiger Army’s earlier stuff) really play up the black-and-white horror stuff, but Tiger Army has kind of moved away from that. So I understand if you don’t feel like it gets you in the mood for Halloween.

This is Tiger Army’s fourth album, and so far their last. Although they haven’t broken up, they haven’t been really active. Their third album started bringing in more of rockabilly’s country roots, and that continued through this album and into the guitarist/lead singer’s 2011 solo album, which is very much Americana country music.

Anyway, some highlights include Afterworld, Pain, As the Cold Rain Falls, and Where the Moss Slowly Grows which was inspired by and dedicated to a friend of the band who committed suicide the year before they released this album. They’ve got energy, some pretty good harmonies, and horrible gringo accents when they sing in Spanish (which gratefully isn’t very often).

Also, all of their albums start with a one-minute instrumental. Well, it’s mostly instrumental. It always includes one line: “Tiger Army never dies!”

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3 thoughts on “Play the Strings of Your Death

  1. Pingback: Enough to Raise a Dead Man from His Grave | An American Audio-logue

  2. Pingback: Feel your Insides Churning | An American Audio-logue

  3. Pingback: The Worst Songs of All Time | An American Audio-logue

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