Editors note: This originally published in 2013. With the release of the new Walking Dead spin-off series Fear the Walking Dead, we revisit one of our favorite lists, our ten favorite apocalyptic tunes.
We all love us some Edgar Wright (and Simon Pegg and Nick Frost for that matter), so with the opening of The World’s End this weekend, we thought it appropriate to dig up the top ten apocalyptic songs. A few words about The World’s End first though. I am endlessly excited to see this movie, but it just has the worst title ever. The title is not bad in and of itself. It is descriptive. It is succinct. But unfortunately it is too similar to another apocalyptic comedy from earlier this summer (This Is The End) as well as a Pirates of the Caribbean poopcicle (At World’s End). This obviously won’t effect the quality of the movie, but its a pet peeve of mine from a differentiation standpoint.
Now that all that is out of the way, enjoy these top ten tracks for the end of times.
10. Prince – “1999”
Remember in 1982 when 1999 was in the distant future and probably the end of the world? Me neither, I wasn’t born yet. Coming in as the most danceable song on this list, “1999” is a classic depiction of a party for the end of the world.
9. Elvis Perkins in Dearland – “Doomsday”
Folk singers love singing about traveling lonely roads, their first loves, and of course the end of times. Elvis Perkins is no exception, and on “Doomsday” tinges his view of the apocalypse with some magnificent stand up base and brass.
8. Tame Impala – “Apocalypse Dream”
I’m not sure this track has anything to do with the apocalypse other than the word in the title. Maybe the greater symbol here is Tame Impala, where everyone is falling ass over ankles for the band like a false prophet during the rapture.
7. The Doors – “The End”
Here is an excerpt from our group thread after the final list was posted:
Todd: I like the list but I feel like I gotta challenge “The End” being on there. I like it as an album closer but its hardly a full song and I don’t get any apocalypse reference in there.
Wes: Todd, the apocalypse is the end
Todd: Is that confirmed? I feel like that is more of an ambiguous “in the end” than that. I could be wrong, I have just never heard that. Like I feel like they are just saying “when its all said and done” or something to that effect.
Wes: The lyrics are clearly apocalyptic
Austin: Its the intro song for Apocalypse Now Todd. If Francis Ford Coppola Thinks its about the apocalypse I think we also can take that liberty.
Todd: The song is 4 lines long and completely love focused. Neither the lyrics/nor any part of the concept portion of Abbey Road are in any way apocalyptic Wes. The Apocalypse Now point is really the only way to even tie it to an apocalypse at all.
Wes: The Doors “The End” knucklehead, not The Beatles.
Communications issues at LxL.
6. The Clash – “London Calling”
“London Calling” may be just a dramatic interpretation about the changing of the guard in popular music, but it has more than its fair share of apocalyptic imagery. Who better to usher in the end of times than The Clash?
5. St. Vincent – “Northern Lights”
If the apocalypse is as frantic, delirious and ultimately beautiful as “Northern Lights”, I certainly wouldn’t mind being around for them. A clear message from St. Vincent to make the most of every moment.
4. Tom Waits – “The Earth Died Screaming”
We’ve always imagined Tom Waits as a post-apocalyptic dirt road traveling prophet, so “The Earth Died Screaming” fits rather snugly on our list here. The weird opener to Bone Machine speaks of monkeys on ladders, raining mackerel and crows as big as airplanes. Fitting.
3. Talking Heads – “Nothing But Flowers”
The ever-intensifying “Nothing But Flowers” has a nice jaunty vibe set to imagery of Earth gone back to its natural state. A very enjoyable take on the end of humanity.
2. Johnny Cash – “Man Comes Around”
I remember being enthralled the first time I heard “Man Comes Around” during the opening credits of Zack Snyder’s remake of Dawn of the Dead. Cash looked like a man braving the apocalypse for most of his career, making him the perfect man to sing the soundtrack.
1. Radiohead – “Idioteque”
I rag on Radiohead a decent amount, but there is no denying the greatness of Kid A track “Idioteque”. There may not be a better use of offbeat timing in music and Thom Yorke’s vocals are relentless.
Todd: Misfits – “Don’t Open ‘Til Doomsday”
In an endless quest to prove his mettle, Todd would obviously pick a Misfits song. And kind of a crappy one at that. You’re hard Todd…real hard.
Wes: Sufjan Stevens – “Age of Adz”
The opening bars of “Age of Adz” are how the sounds of the apocalypse could certainly be imagined. Wes often listens to this track while toiling away building his bomb shelter in his backyard.
Austin: Pink Floyd – “Goodbye Blue Sky”
This track may describe an actual historical even, the blitz, but the emotions are those of someone who clearly think the bombing of England by the Nazis may be the end of the world. “Goodbye Blue Sky” is one of many terrifyingly beautiful songs on The Wall.