Stop it. I don’t care if you’ve got the full spread of Misfits sleepwear merchandise or a supposedly original “Who Shot Marilyn?” single. Stop being that person who every October goes, “Play ‘Halloween!’ ‘Halloween!’” It’s been done. Unless you’re actually dressed as Danzig, perhaps with a bag of kitty litter and a copy of Shrek II on DVD, I want nothing to do with it this Halloween.
No, here’s how you’re really going to get people into the Halloween spirit this year: creep ’em out. Don’t wait till Halloween night — have some friends over, carve some pumpkins, and put on some skuzzy creeper music, like the heavy fragmented scum-rock of Drainolith’s Fighting. Get the eerie mood started right, and carry it all week. Kids want candy? Your house should be seething Sheer Hellish Miasma, and that’s scarier than any number of plastic skulls.
Okay, maybe “creepy” isn’t the exact route you’d like to go down. That’s understandable. Maybe you’re more into wrapping people up with toilet paper while yelling songs by the Mummies, or putting on a leather jacket and stumping kids at “guess that Ramones album!” — you’re probably either a bully or an overzealous cool dad, then, right? Oh, that’s just your costume? Nice one! Well, whatever the case, here are some tips.
At the end of the night, when you need to get the “everybody gothic dance!” party started, Sacred Bones has got you covered, having just reissued a pair of rare albums from the French coldwave duo Trop Tard (en français for “too late”). Cavernous, icy reverb guitars, gloomy vocals full of ennui, and a drum machine separate this Joy Division-influenced band from the ones more commonly labeled “post-punk.” In the highly unlikely event that a conflict between two different people dressed as Ian Curtis arises at your Halloween event, either Trop Tard record will decisively ensure that the tragicomic Ian Curtis wearing a noose will stay, and the person in a bootlegged Unknown Pleasures shirt that was too lazy to come up with a real costume will have a faux-epileptic fit on their way out.
For more general mood listening throughout the evening, Sonic Youth’s Bad Moon Rising is a fantastic, relatively overlooked Halloween staple. Live Skull’s Dusted also makes for a nice pairing — Homestead Records was really good at putting out records that evoke an eerie, “haunted warehouse” sort of feel, with these two records being prime examples. But, if you really want to get freaky, look no further than that new YOKOKIMTHURSTON album that Vice accurately described as “uncomfortable”: an hour of free improvisation between a divorcing couple plus Yoko Ono. Trick or treat!
One record that actually does get spun in my living room every Halloween — and really, you should join in on this tradition, because you’re just missing out otherwise — is “Are You Ready For Freddy?” This gloriously terrible slab of wax from the Fat Boys offers late-80s bargain bin detritus par excellence. Freddy Krueger actually raps “Yo, bust a rhyme” in it.
To close on a more serious “music critic” note, however, if there’s one album this year that might be worth having a marathon session with this Halloween, it’d be Swans’ The Seer. As the last bells of “The Apostate” ring out in the din of morning, moonlit on the shallow horizon, one discerns the hanging sinews of sound, strewn all along like dead branches on the road, an arrow passed through a swollen pouch: spilling creeping unease into the night like light escaping from the hollow face of a pumpkin. That’s how to spend Halloween.