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Death and Taxes

7 Songs in the Key of Apocalypse

6th November 1952: Characteristic mushroom shaped cloud begins formation after the first H-Bomb explosion (US) at Eniwetok Atoll in the Pacific. (Photo by Three Lions/Getty Images)

This article was originally published in Death and Taxes on March 2, 2010.

Things seem to be heating up these days, (climate change, anyone?) and things don’t seem to be getting easier as far as the economy goes. Not to mention we’ve had two earthquakes in the past two months, a Snowmaggedon and for all intents and purposes, a snow hurricane that just hit N.Y.C. with a foot and a half of snow within the past week. In the media, we’ve been bombarded with movies like 2012 and The Road, television has programs like History Channel’s Life After People.

So, with all these terrible things goin’ down, D+T thought of a good list of apocalyptic songs to sing along to, with the likes of Johnny Cash, Bon Jovi and Tool. Here’s the list.

Johnny Cash – “When the Man Comes Around”

Johnny Cash became somewhat of a prophet of doom on his third to last album, American IV: The Man Comes Around. Opening the title track with a quote straight from the Bible’s Revelations, Johnny Cash hits it home within the verse, singing, “Will you partake of that last offered cup/ Or disappear into the Potter’s ground/ When the Man comes around.”

Bright Eyes – “Four Winds”

On his last outing under the moniker Bright Eyes, Conor Oberst threw his hat in the apocalyptic ring on his track Four Winds. He describes a mural of a young woman “standing in the ashes at the end of the world/four winds blowing through her hair.” This is a track that’s oddly upbeat for the content. He later goes on to denounce the apocalyptic warnings held in our most holy books, singing “The Bible’s blind, the Torah’s deaf, the Qur’an is mute/ If you burned them all together you’d be close to the truth.”

Bon Jovi, Goin’ Down in a Blaze of Glory

Possibly the sexiest song on this list, “Goin’ Down in A Blaze of Glory” has apocalypse written all over it. Jon brings in up the standard dialogue between God and the Devil, clearly taking sides as “the Devil’s son.” “Let me make my final stand
Shot down in a blaze of glory
Take me now but know the truth
Im going out in a blaze of glory”

Jill Sobule – “The Good Life”

Anyone that came-of-age in the 1990’s remembers the movie Clueless. Jill Sobule is the writer of that really catchy song “Supermodel” on the soundtrack. She’s a great singer-songwriter and this track is a completely upbeat look at the end of the world off her album California Years, “A hundred foot swells over Venice Beach/Well don’t be scared and take my hand/ We’ll swim into the promised land/ It was a good life.” She continues on her positive note, singing “On the day the earth stood still, we won’t have to pay our bills!” Amen, sista.

Tool – “Aenima”

The darkest song on this list, Aenima is filled with apocalypic imagery with sardonic humor. Maynard coos “I sure could use a vacation from from this bullshit three ring circus sideshow,” before exploding into “Here in this hopeless fucking hole we call LA/The only way to fix it is to flush it all away/Any fucking time, Any fucking day/Learn to swim, I’ll see you down in Arizona bay.”

I love you, Maynard, but maybe it’s time to switch to decaf? Just a thought.

Bob Dylan – “Talking World War III Blues”

There’s a famous quote of Albert Einstein that goes, ” I don’t know what weapons World War III will be fought with, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.” This song seems to be inspired by such a prediction. Bob Dylan came of age during the Cold War, which was arguably the most tense time in all of human history. With superpowers each ready to pull the trigger for Mutually Assured Destruction, a young Robert Zimmerman decided to pen the lyrics, “Some time ago a crazy dream came to me/I dreamt I was walkin’ into World War Three/ I went to the doctor the very next day/To see what kinda words he could say/He said it was a bad dream”

R.E.M. – “It’s the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)”

This song is almost iconoclastic with the end of the world, and this live version is great because it looks like Michael Stipe needs a music stand to remember the lyrics. This song is so great that it’s used in the opening sequence in the 1996 blockbuster Independence Day.

On a sidenote, to see the greatest rally call against impending doom in cinematic history, watch the video below…