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Posts filed under ‘Fear’

May 25, 2012

Creepy Music

THE ZONE OF UNEASE, May 25 – Last month, in New York, I had a long chat with a friend about the music of the twenty tweens. “Nobody makes creepy music any more,” she said. With a jolt, I realized she was right. It’s as if one whole shade of the emotional spectrum has simply vanished from popular music. Unpopular music, too. Where has all the creepiness gone? Here are a few songs from its heyday:

1. “I Got You”

Remember that one guy in your high school? He’s the singer. And while his bandmates know how to dress the part, it’s clear that Red, Purple, Pink and Greeny have no real clue that Baby Blue actually did build that basement dungeon they all joke about at practice. Bonus: the sociopathically upbeat chorus.

2. “19th Nervous Breakdown”

Probably the best Rolling Stones cover ever recorded. Wait for the chorus at 3:01. Ouch.

I once complained to myself that this song is how I always wanted Bauhaus to sound. That was a stupid observation, and an unfair one. Bauhaus were plenty creepy in their own right. Check out the first few minutes of 1983′s “The Hunger”:

Even if it were possible to make this kind of movie now, the music would be either an overbearing film score or runway-decibel raprock. It’s a shame.

3. “Human Certainty”

Here’s a weird video someone made. The full song is even creepier, and sadder, once the vocals kick in. I used to listen to this song a lot in high school, which was an unhealthy choice.

Watching this spry young lady, I kind of expect the whole thing to morph into this:

4. “Hamburger Lady”

This is probably what the guy in the first video was listening to when he did those terrible things that got him into the paper.

April 11, 2012

Floating Black Gloves

LORAIN, OH, April 10 – I was in the area, so I directed my chauffer / manservant John Michaels to drive us to my old house in Lorain, OH. I lived here from 1969 to 1973, longer than I lived in New York City. I haven’t been back since. Although I’d heard that the last four decades had been unkind to Lorain, I found my old street bordered by large, pleasant residences. The address listed on my birth certificate led us to the lone dumpy house, a green and beige home with an untended lawn. Nothing looked familiar.

Was I expecting something more spectacular? Maybe. When I visited my old house in Troy, NY eight years ago, I found the place small, and charmless, its side wall vandalized with large graffiti reading SICK OF IT ALL and HARDCORE IS BACK *. The Lorain house was merely run down and kind of sad. It was clearly the least kept up residence on the block.

As I studied the layout of the street, a single memory of the house snapped into place with jarring force. I was standing in my crib, at night, peering out of the second story window, down to the corner. As I watched, a pair of black gloves floated down the street towards my house. When the gloves reached our walkway, they turned in towards the house, clearly on their way up to my bedroom. I wasn’t yet accustomed to my dream world so closely approximating the real world, so I presumably woke up at that point.

We drove around Lorain. The town has taken a beating. John swerved around several gaping, axle-killer potholes born of years of civic indifference. Furtive men entered and exited storefronts with painted plywood windows. At one intersection, a high billboard urged residents not to kill themselves. It all reminded me of the part in Back To The Future II where Marty and Doc Brown go to the wrong 1985.

I ran into a supermarket. In the bathroom, the laminated, professionally made sanitation sign showed a cartoon bar of soap pleading that it’d been off drugs for 6 months. My iPhone couldn’t photograph something that small, so when I told John he went back in with one of his nice cameras to document it.

It was cold and drizzly. I thought about the floating black gloves, out there, somewhere, lurking about Lorain, still searching for me, and when John returned, I commanded him to drive us out of this city as quickly as possible.

* true story.

April 7, 2012


NEW ENGLAND, April 7 – I’d forgotten how many bros there were in this part of the world. After Boston, it’s been hard for the three of us to not “do” that generic Southie accent, occasionally adding a touch of JFK voice to break things up a bit. Get in the fah-kin’ cah, ya jagoff! Why does this accent convey so much menace? Why are New England tough guys so deeply disturbing? I spent five years in the south, and I’ve never, ever, heard this level of danger conveyed through a Southern accent.

When I lived in Providence, I was walking down my street once when a man in a wifebeater and backwards baseball cap yelled up to an identical man leaning out a second story window.

Man 1: You fucking comin’ down?!
Man 2: I got eleven fuckin’ kids up heah!

Another time, I was walking down the same street when a pit bull charged a chain link fence and roared at me. I was in a good mood, so I gave the dog a cheery raspberry. A bro appeared from thin air. “Yeah, stick yah fackin tongue out at ‘im! That’ll scare him!” he said with deep anger.

Last night, in Connecticut, I arrived at the record store hosting the reading and found an empty room. For years, I’ve shot my mouth off about how I’ll perform to any size crowd, up to and including no one, and for a moment I thought, oh no, this is it. But then I found the basement. Normally a dozen people waiting for you in a low-ceilinged cellar would be a creepy thing, but in this case it was a relief. No bros showed, and the show went on as scheduled and was a smash.