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Ghoul Sounds

Halloween has always been my favorite holiday. There are no displays of bullshit nationalistic pride or messy Christmas trees. And more than just an excuse for children disguised as ghosts, goblins, and so on to case your house and hope for a hand-out, Halloween is about partying. The last Halloween I can clearly remember, my friends and I were dressed as characters from Reservoir Dogs, if that tells you anything. But the perfect party requires meticulous planning, and nothing is more important than the tunes you choose. Halloween has an impressive canon of frightfully fun songs. Here are my picks.

Arthur Brown, "Fire":Sixties rocker Brown (a.k.a. "the god of hellfire") can claim at least partial parentage to Alice Cooper, Marilyn Manson, and P.O.D. And if that thought isn't enough to soak your shorts, then the lyrics to Brown's 1968 paean to Beavis's favorite element should coax a horrified gasp or two out of you. "I was falling, falling, falling! I was falling into the flames! And I knew that I was gonna burn! I was gonna burn!" Brown intones. Yikes! Honestly, the only people who will find this truly scary are probably the same demographic that think Green Day is cool — old women and young boys — but it does occupy a prominent place in the history of schlock rock and is a wonderful example of October kitsch.

Ministry, "Every Day Is Halloween":If Disney World's Pleasure Island were relinquished to David Lynch, we'd like to believe he would choose Ministry as the house band. And instead of blaring "Auld Lang Syne" as participants painfully relive New Year's Eve in Disney's sexless "club," here you would find the proto-industrial legends attempting to ward off a seemingly imminent apocalypse with a mixture of sludgy heavy metal, techno dystopia, and musique concrte. Sounds fun, doesn't it? "Every Day Is Halloween" is actually from a (relatively) kinder and gentler time in Ministry's history. This track (two versions are included on Ministry's 1985 12 Inch Remixes album) has a nice electro sheen and is actually danceable, which makes it all the more essential for your party.

DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, "Nightmare on My Street": In retrospect, the Eighties were a rather precocious time. It was "morning in America," Will Smith had not yet been forced to save the world (four or five times), and mainstream rap was still bland and middle-class. This gem from those more innocent days finds Jada Pinkett's hubby meeting everyone's favorite pepperoni-faced serial killer, Nightmare on Elm Street's Freddy Krueger. Smith disses Freddy's fashion sense — dude really needs to change clothes — while Krueger slyly comes on to the Fresh Prince, commenting, "You've got the body and I've got the brain." In a distinctly perverse turn, today's pop culture has transformed our rappers into monsters. If Freddy met Young Jeezy, we're not sure who would scare whom.

Geto Boys, "My Mind's Playin' Tricks on Me": What's a crackhead to do on Halloween? You already look ghostly, you've probably seen more tricks than you care to admit, and the only treat you want takes the form of an off-white rock bundled in a little plastic bag. Well, if you're anything like Geto Boy resident midget Bushwick Bill, you'll probably spend Monday night in a paranoid frenzy, "robbing little kids for bags," and battling with the various monsters infesting the urban landscape. But as Bushwick begins "dropping them motherfucking B's" on his adversary, he realizes he's alone, hallucinating, and beating his bloody hands against concrete. It's hard to imagine that this 1991 track — with its themes of delusion, isolation, and addiction — was ever a Top 40 hit.

Gravediggaz, "Diary of a Madman": This early Nineties hip-hop supergroup featuring De La Soul's Prince Paul (here known as the Undertaker) and Wu Tang Clan's RZA (a.k.a. the Rzarector) created a short-lived but beloved hip-hop subgenre dubbed horrorcore. Sadistic and grisly, Gravediggaz is a perfect personification of Halloween's blend of the macabre and the farcical. In the intro skit to 1994's "Diary of a Madman" — Gravediggaz's most popular song — the group appears before a judge and attempts to plead insanity for murdering a baby. It's one of those things that's a lot of fun if you don't take it too seriously.

Various Artists, "Do They Know It's Halloween":What's scarier than a gaggle of hipster celebrities (including Beck, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Arcade Fire, Sonic Youth, and David Cross) teaming up for a Halloween-themed parody of "We Are the World"-style charity songs? The fact that this is being released on KKK subsidiary Vice Records. And if you're still not frightened, then you might want to mull this over: David Cross actually sings a short segment of it.

 
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