You’re driving across a wasteland ravaged by nukes/zombies/aliens/President Snow. You need tunes to set the mood. What would be playing in the background while you stare moodily into the middle distance, contemplating everything that’s befallen you?
Here’s my playlist for the end of the world, along with a few notes for when each song would be most appropriate to play.
Life During Wartime, Talking Heads
This is a nervous, edgy tune, and any song whose lyrics start with “There is a van, that’s loaded with weapons” has to be in my apocalypse. I imagine this song as the scene-setter, a hint of impending trouble; maybe it’s playing in the background on the radio as our heroes go about their lives in the days before the collapse.
Ghost Town, The Specials
Originally written as a lament of bored young people, the song’s mournful horns are apt accompaniment for cruising the lonely streets of a city emptied by chaos.
I Might Be Wrong, Radiohead
The guitar line in this song carries a hint of menace. It reminds our travelers of the constant danger that lurks in the blasted ruins of civilization. And Thom Yorke could do a cameo as a radiation-wasted hermit, skulking through alleys in a shabby robe as he murmurs cryptic warnings that our heroes fail to heed.
Roadrunner, Modern Lovers
Occasionally our heroes catch a break: a cache of food, a safe place to hole up, a hot shower, a fast car. This is the song to play when they feel good and hopes rise. But you know it won’t last.
Redneck, Lamb of God
Every apocalypse needs bad dudes—very bad dudes. And they need a musical cue as they roll up over the horizon, preferably on motorcycles. This is their song.
Oh, Sweet Nuthin’, Velvet Underground
You’ve lost everything, even the pack on your back. You’re beaten and bruised and alone. You have two choices: lay down at the side of the road and wait to die, or keep walking. You choose the latter, even if you don’t know where you’re going, or what lies ahead. From your dry, cracked lips comes the ghost of a chorus, half remembered from the time before everything went to hell. You start to sing. Your voice is low and rusted with thirst. Lou Reed fades in from underneath, an angel in black to keep you company.
The Phoenix, The Cult
The Phoenix would be a good choice for an action sequence, like a chase scene through the desert, or a close-up knife fight between our hero and the lead villain.
It’s The End Of The World As We Know It, REM
An obvious choice, I know. But it’s still a good song. Roll credits…