Violent Femmes, “Country Death Song”: This tune sounds like the confessions of a degenerate hillbilly. It’s folksier than usual for the Violent Femmes, and singer Gordon Gano adds extra twang to the already countrified banjo riffs. Wails Gano, “I swear I lost my mind, I started makin’ plans to kill my own kind.” Our narrator pushes his daughter down a well and then, wrought with grief, hangs himself. This is what happens when there’s “nothin’ for a man to do but sit around and think.” Boredom kills.
Siouxsie and the Banshees, “Carcass”: The lyrics of “Carcass” are vague. Their general implication is that, somewhere “in cold storage,” a bloodthirsty man uses a cleaver to initiate “an impaled affair” of love. The killer, sings Siouxsie Sioux, is “in love with your stumps, in love with your bleeding, in love with the pain (the pain), that you once felt (now feel).” The perv is also a cook, transferring body parts “out of the frying pan, and into the fire.” Then Sioux reveals, “Mother had her son for tea.” Yummy.
Velvet Underground, “Lady Godiva’s Operation”: Poor Lady Godiva. Hers is a tale of a surgical operation gone awry. Lou Reed’s lyrics describe her as “shaved and hairless, what once was screaming, now lies silent and almost sleeping.” Keyword: almost. Ether isn’t strong enough to knock Godiva out, so when the doctor excises a growth (“just so much cabbage”) from the Lady’s brain, “the screams echo off the walls.” Anesthesiologists everywhere, take note. Please.
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, “Song of Joy”: There is nothing joyous about this song, nor the 1996 album Murder Ballads on which it appears. The entire record could fill out this list. In “Song of Joy,” a male doctor marries a woman (named Joy) who becomes chronically depressed and gives birth to three depressed daughters. One evening, the doctor returns home to find “someone’s taken four innocent lives.” You want the gory details? Listen to the song. And then wash your ears out with soap.
Alice Cooper, “I Love the Dead”: Alice Cooper, progenitor of shock-rock, executor of onstage self-torture, tops this list. “I Love the Dead” is about necrophilia. Behold the consummate gross-out lyric: “I love the dead, before they’re cold, the bluing flesh, for me to hold.” Cooper delivers each line zestfully, greedily, with gasps of sexual thrill.
The worst thing about this song is that its triumphant refrain, “I love the dead,” is catchy. It will get stuck in your head. And then you’ll realize what you’re gleefully singing about. And you will gag. Thankfully, Cooper, now an outspoken born-again Christian with a new album about a serial killer, provides a glimmer of post-Halloween redemption for us all. - Linda Leseman