Gimme Five: Mayan Apocalypse Edition

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Strictly speaking, the Mayan calendar doesn’t end at all — not on Friday, not ever. December 21, 2012 is simply the end of a 5125-year cycle. Now that we’ve got that cleared up, we can address the real problem: WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE ANYWAY.

Be it from the super planet Niburu passing so close to Earth as to disrupt its inner core, a giant solar storm turning our cities into cinders, or a planetary alignment that threatens to drown us all in a tidal disaster, the calendar thing is just the beginning for what’s reportedly in store for us on Friday.

Faced with the kind of hellscape-like living conditions that would have made the author of the Book of Revelations blush, all there is to do, really, is sit back and watch. Then it occurred to us that every disaster flick needs a good soundtrack.

That’s where we come in: Here are five favorites to get you ready for the Mayan apocalypse, along with a bunch of additional related tracks to round out your playlist. See you on the other side!

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“THIS WORLD OVER,” XTC (1984): A classic subplot in any earth-ending scenario involves the ones who somehow, someway, survive. Back in the Cold War days, you needed either a well-fortified bunker or a whole lot of luck. (Remember Morrissey’s lonely seaside village that they forgot to bomb?) Today, all you have to do is get to that mountain in the French Pyrenees where an alien spaceship is reportedly hidden, ready to provide safe passage away.

Problem: French authorities are now blocking all access to the peak, through December 23, 2012, ostensibly to protect the locals from being disturbed. Greedy bastards. Should you somehow give them the slip and get aboard, however, you’ll need an English-to-French dictionary — and this perfect post-apocalyptic XTC track. Andy Partridge doesn’t wallow in his abject fear and loneliness (Paging Morrissey!), so much as ask what we can do to make sure that this civilization-ruining calamity doesn’t happen again.

He’s hoping, faced with a pile of rubble where London once stood, that future generations don’t simply make the same shoulder-shrugging mistakes. Me, I’m hoping they get this stupid calendar thing figured out.

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“TIME’S UP,” LIVING COLOUR (1990): The opening track on the underrated follow up to Living Colour’s smash debut Vivid, “Time’s Up” actually sounds like a planet being torn apart. Vernon Reid’s solo on this catastrophically loud Bad Brains-inspired track is like a sizzling corrosive, burning through expectations, genres and, finally, your inner ear.

Corey Glover, meanwhile, is actually offering a tough-minded warning about the dangers of an environmental collapse. Still, the general theme of inevitable communal destruction rings true in our current situation. As you stare into the circular Mayan calendar, looking for clues in its dizzying maze of symbols, Living Colour’s cadence ramps up into a mind-bending pace — and Glover warns: “Your future won’t save your past.”

Shivers, dude. Shivers.

[SOMETHING ELSE! INTERVIEW: Vernon Reid discusses the incendiary fusion collaboration Spectrum Road, how jazz has informed his playing from the start – and bursting onto the scene with Living Colour.]

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“UNTIL THE END OF THE WORLD,” U2 (1991): Director Wim Wenders, constructing a film of the same name, contacted more than two dozen bands with a proposition: Contribute songs that reflect how you feel the band would sound in the future. U2, in keeping with their doomy fin-de-siecle music of the period, assumed we’d all be heartbroken and lost by then.

The song follows this depressive guy as he tries to fall in love. (“In my dream, I was drowning my sorrows,” Bono sings while the Edge saws, seethes, then brilliantly soars on his guitar, “but my sorrows, they learned to swim.”) The girl, however, proves to be unreachable, because of her all-encompassing obsession with the world going poof.

So, basically, it’s like right now.


“1999,” PRINCE (1982): Something else any self-respecting apocalypse must have is a fuck-this anthem, the song for those who plan to hunker down and ride it out.

A generation ago, faced with a world in which everything could be turned to glass with the press of a single Rooskie’s thumb, Prince penned one that peered into the “future” of a new millennium and decided to go clubbing instead. Three decades later, and it’s still might be the most measured response out there.

Yo, Niburu! I’m dancing my life away, too. Maybe I’ll only die of embarrassment.

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“IT’S THE END OF THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT (AND I FEEL FINE),” R.E.M. (1987): Putting this one on the list certainly feels rather perfunctory. But, then again, you can’t exactly have an end-of-the-world list without it, right?

Not because we’d all love to yell LEONARD BERNSTEIN one last time before our earthly existence is torn asunder. Instead, we find within this song the first glimmer of a clue as to how our looming cataclysm will begin: “It starts,” R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe famously divines, “with an earthquake, birds and snakes, an aeroplane.”

But you’re telling us, seriously, that Lenny Bruce wouldn’t be afraid? Bullshit.

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APOCALYPSE THIS!: “The End,” The Doors; “When the World Is Running Down,You Make the Best of What’s Still Around,” The Police; “Eve of Destruction,” Barry McGuire; “99 Red Balloons,” Nena; “The End of the World,” Blackfield; “Here Comes the Flood,” Peter Gabriel; “The Number of the Beast,” Iron Maiden; “House at the End of the World,” The Smithereens; “Two Suns in the Sunset,” Pink Floyd; “Minutes to Midnight,” Midnight Oil; “The Earth Died Screaming,” Tom Waits; “Time Is Running Out,” Muse; “Every Day Is Like Sunday,” Morrissey; “After Forever,” Black Sabbath; “When the World Ends,” Dave Matthews Band; “(I’ll Love You Till) The End of the World,” Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds; “We Will Become Silhouettes,” The Postal Service; “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper,” Blue Oyster Cult; “Seconds,” U2; “Extinction Blues,” Steve Lukather; “Bad Moon Rising,” Creedence Clearwater Revival; “The End of the World,” Pet Shop Boys; “Black Hole Sun,” Soundgarden; “Land of Confusion,” Genesis; “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore,” Jules Shear; “King of the World,” Steely Dan; “Out of Time,” Blur; “The Day the Whole World Went Away,” Nine Inch Nails; and “The End,” the Beatles.

Nick DeRiso

Over a 30-year career, Nick DeRiso has also explored music for USA Today, All About Jazz, Ultimate Classic Rock and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the nation by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Contact him at nderiso@somethingelsereviews.com.
  • MRodifer

    Nick —

    Would the Airplane’s (or CSN’s) version of Wooden Ships qualify? It’s post-war, but also post-apocalyptic.

    Otherwise, including the honorable mentions, a great list!