Soundtrack to the end times
August 11, 2006 2:27 PM   Subscribe

Songs about the end times: tell me about songs whose lyrics give a sense, either overt or oblique, of the world ending, civilization collapsing, etc.

I'm particularly looking for songs in a similar lyrical style to Don't Panic by Cold Play and When in Rome by Nickel Creek. That is, more occuring within a context of an apocalyptic time, rather than predicting one.

However! I do enjoy the "duh" answers by REM, Dave Matthews Band, Nena, and others (It's the End of the World as We Know it and so on...) as well as songs that might just be slightly unsettling and doomsday-ish. So feel free to shout out whatever songs give you the impression of the end times. Both "bang" and "whimper" versions of Armageddon welcome!
posted by nelleish to Grab Bag (100 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Check out the album Diamond Dogs by David Bowie. Or, sticking with the classic rock theme, "The Prophet's Song" off A Night At The Opera by Queen.
posted by headlessagnew at 2:30 PM on August 11, 2006

"Earth Crusher" and "Post Mortem," from Mr. Lif's I, Phantom
posted by box at 2:32 PM on August 11, 2006

Here Comes The Flood, from The Divine Comedy's Fin De Siécle.
posted by gac at 2:32 PM on August 11, 2006

"Just Another Day", by Oingo Boingo
posted by solid-one-love at 2:37 PM on August 11, 2006

Tool's Ænema.
posted by evariste at 2:38 PM on August 11, 2006

"Everyday Is Like Sunday" by Morrissey.

"Two Suns In The Sunset" by Pink Floyd.
posted by justkevin at 2:42 PM on August 11, 2006

"London Calling"by the Clash, "'A' Bomb in Wardour Street" by the Jam.
posted by jessenoonan at 2:42 PM on August 11, 2006

Most of the songs from the Until The End of the World soundtrack, most notably Nick Cave's (I'll Love You) Till The End Of The World. Another good one is Talking Head's Life During Wartime.
posted by JJ86 at 2:43 PM on August 11, 2006

"Hail to the Chief"
posted by orthogonality at 2:44 PM on August 11, 2006

nelleish, do you want contemporary Christian songs as well?
posted by IndigoRain at 2:44 PM on August 11, 2006

"Nothing but Flowers" by Talking Heads (scroll down)
posted by jessenoonan at 2:45 PM on August 11, 2006

Everclear, "Santa Monica"
Lou Reed, "Fly Into the Sun"
Prince, "1999"
posted by Skot at 2:48 PM on August 11, 2006

"Take it Back" Pink Floyd
posted by The Deej at 2:48 PM on August 11, 2006

"Eve of Destruction"
posted by jessenoonan at 2:48 PM on August 11, 2006

In the Year 2525
posted by davcoo at 2:49 PM on August 11, 2006

Based off of gac's comment, I'd suggest Peter Gabriel's "Here Comes The Flood."
posted by sjuhawk31 at 2:49 PM on August 11, 2006

The U2 song "Until the End of the World" which was in the movie of the same name reminds me of the endtimes as the movie was about the time leading up to the end of the world. I haven't seen the movie in 15 years. The song isn't about the end of the world so much. The song is on Achtung Baby and available for a taste on iTunes.
posted by birdherder at 2:50 PM on August 11, 2006

"War Pigs," arguably.
posted by jessenoonan at 2:51 PM on August 11, 2006

Klaus Nomi, "Total Eclipse"

Also, the lyrics are just teen angst, but Pere Ubu's "Final Solution" sounds pretty apocalyptic, especially towards the end. (Actually, a lot of Pere Ubu sounds like that...)
posted by equalpants at 2:53 PM on August 11, 2006

"The Sound of Silence" by Simon & Garfunkel
"In The Year 2525" by Zager & Evans
"It's Good News Week" by Hedgehoppers Anonymous
posted by essexjan at 2:54 PM on August 11, 2006


The Man Comes Around 151; Johnny Cash
We Will Become Silhouettes 151; The Postal Service
Pompeii Am Gotterdammerung 151; Flaming Lips

And I suppose on a tangent

It's Not The End Of The World 151; Super Furry Animals
posted by randomination at 2:54 PM on August 11, 2006

Bad HTML! No biscuit for you!
posted by randomination at 2:55 PM on August 11, 2006

Really really great answers so far all! I am happily reminded of some excellent songs I haven't listen to in a long time, as well as getting much fresh music. More please!

IndigoRain: I actually hadn't considered that angle before (I don't listen to that genre much at all myself). But, as this question was partially inspired by my having just finished A Canticle for Leibowitz, I won't say no to some religious perspective on the way we'll all go out.
posted by nelleish at 2:58 PM on August 11, 2006

Oh, god, how did I forget "Five Years" (Bowie)?
posted by equalpants at 3:00 PM on August 11, 2006

The Dead Flag Blues, by Godspeed You Black Emperor!

I suppose it's a fairly obvious choice, but that song is particularly obvious about it.
posted by invitapriore at 3:00 PM on August 11, 2006

"tables and chairs" by Andrew Bird.
posted by Spurious Packets at 3:00 PM on August 11, 2006

"Muzzle" by Smashing Pumpkins always gave me a sense of things coming to end in the "Don't Panic" vein-

" all things must surely have to end
and great loves will one day have to part ...
and i knew the silence of the world "
posted by Eudaimonia at 3:01 PM on August 11, 2006

After the Goldrush by Neil Young
posted by slightlybewildered at 3:02 PM on August 11, 2006

Bob Dylan's "Black Diamond Bay" and "A Hard Rain's A-gonna Fall."
posted by lucien at 3:02 PM on August 11, 2006

Not lyrics exactly but the sample at the beginning of Godspeed You Black Emperors' "Dead Flag Blues" from their 1997 release F#A#∞ is real scary and feels deeply post-apocalyptic.
posted by verysleeping at 3:04 PM on August 11, 2006

You might find some good suggestions in this previous question thread.
posted by wannalol at 3:05 PM on August 11, 2006

oops, good call invitapriore!
posted by verysleeping at 3:06 PM on August 11, 2006

The Dismemberment Plan's 8.5 Minutes.
posted by kaytwo at 3:07 PM on August 11, 2006

John and Mary's "Rags of Flowers" has a Liebowitz quality to it.

Also some crap from the 80s:

99 Luftballons / Nena
2 Minutes to Midnight / I. Ron Maiden
Russians / Sting (?)
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 3:11 PM on August 11, 2006

"apocolypse please" by the band Muse. it's delightfully bombastic!
posted by amethysts at 3:11 PM on August 11, 2006

I know it's not meant to be about apocalypse, but Peter Gabriel's Mercy Street has always given me an On the Beach vibe.
posted by lalex at 3:17 PM on August 11, 2006

Jamaican music is full of songs with apocalyptic messages, at least one of which was responsible for it's own millennial craze. A few good examples:

"Blood and Fire" by Niney
"Armagideon Time" by Willie Williams
"Two Sevens Clash" by Culture
even "Police & Theives" by Junior Murvin

And of course anything with lyrics along the lines of "Babylon a falling" or "Babylon burn"
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 3:23 PM on August 11, 2006

No More Room in Hell by Scarring Party. "A sepia-toned song about the apocalypse"
posted by CrunchyFrog at 3:24 PM on August 11, 2006

Monkey Wash/Donkey Rinse, Warren Zevon
Two Suns in the Sunset, Pink Floyd
Earth Died Screaming, Tom Waits
Cities in Dust, Siouxsie and the Banshees
posted by dilettante at 3:26 PM on August 11, 2006

Dilettante beat me, but the one and only reason I entered this thread was to type:

Tom Waits - Earth Died Screaming
posted by Hildago at 3:27 PM on August 11, 2006

Black Friday by Steely Dan
posted by banshee at 3:28 PM on August 11, 2006

If we're allowing 80's cheese, there's always Europe's Final Coundown.
posted by nomisxid at 3:30 PM on August 11, 2006

The lyrics don't say so, but ever since Fight Club, I can't hear "Where Is My Mind" by the Pixies (the song from the closing scene) without thinking about destruction and the collapse of civilization and order (and feeling kind of charged up by the chaos!).
posted by kookoobirdz at 3:38 PM on August 11, 2006

This World Over by XTC
posted by shinybeast at 3:38 PM on August 11, 2006

Peter Hammill - Mr. X (Gets Tense)

Leonard Cohen - The Future (which was used admirably in the ending of Natural Born Killers)
posted by elr at 3:39 PM on August 11, 2006

From my SO:
Panic in Detroit, David Bowie

And now I see that justkevin already mentioned "Two Suns in the Sunset"
posted by dilettante at 3:40 PM on August 11, 2006

Another vote for Muse.

Some of their other apocalyptic songs:

Ruled by Secrecy
Map of the Problematique
Knights of Cydonia (Possibly the greatest Laser Cowboy song in history.)
posted by mariokrat at 3:41 PM on August 11, 2006

Jesus Hits Like An Atom Bomb by Lowell Blanchard
posted by rhapsodie at 3:46 PM on August 11, 2006

Tom Waits : In the coliseum (for that apocalyptic society feel)
Earth died screaming, too. It was the first track when I made a mix disc just like this. Maybe Singapore, or Everything goes to Hell, too. Also Black Riders by Waits. It's sort of a cottage industry for the man.

Early Nick Cave would be a treasure trove... Tupelo, etc.
posted by boo_radley at 3:48 PM on August 11, 2006

I always thought the second half of Glass and the Ghost Children by the Smashing Pumpkins, for all its self-indulgence, conjured up a really bleak sort of post-apocalyptic, world-already-gone-to-ruin thing which I really liked.
posted by terpsichoria at 3:50 PM on August 11, 2006

Mose Allison - Ever Since the World Ended
posted by hydrophonic at 3:57 PM on August 11, 2006

For that complement of 80's nuclear-panic songs...

"Fireside Favourite," Fad Gadget
"New Dark Age," The Sound
"Massive Retaliation," Sigue Sigue Sputnik
"More ICBMs," Nomeansno

If you're putting in Bowie tracks, "Five Years" is definitely one to consider.
posted by Vervain at 3:59 PM on August 11, 2006

how obliquely?
the ink spots' "maybe"
louis armstrong's "a kiss to build a dream on"
are intro soundtracks to fallout 1 and 2 (postapocalyptic computer rpgs) respectively.
posted by juv3nal at 4:00 PM on August 11, 2006

Radiohead - Idioteque, along with sundry of their other songs of course.

Mr. Bungle - None Of Them Knew They Were Robots has some sort of crazy posthuman apocalypse.

If we're allowing 80's cheese, there's always Europe's Final Coundown.

That's about an awesome space mission to Venus to do awesome things, not about the end of the world.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 4:03 PM on August 11, 2006

Steely Dan's "King of the World."
posted by Dr. Wu at 4:04 PM on August 11, 2006

"Nuclear War," by Sun Ra, or one of Yo La Tengo's covers of it.
posted by lisa g at 4:14 PM on August 11, 2006

Oh, and Talking Heads, "Life During Wartime".
posted by dilettante at 4:20 PM on August 11, 2006

shinybeast, I'll see your "This World Over" and raise you one "I Remember The Sun". Oh, and toss in Robbie Robertson's "Showdown At Big Sky" and Men At Work's "It's a Mistake,", Ultravox's "Dancing With Tears In My Eyes," and Elvis Costello's "Waiting For The End Of The World.
posted by kimota at 4:25 PM on August 11, 2006

Chris Cornell on the album: Euphoria Morning, "Preaching the End of the World"
posted by catseatcheese at 4:29 PM on August 11, 2006

Difford & Tilbrook's Apple Tree, and in more of a social breakdown mode, Dire Straits' "Industrial Disease". And at least the bridge of World Party's Way Down Now.
posted by kimota at 4:34 PM on August 11, 2006

Jimmy Buffet's Apocalypso
posted by alteredcarbon at 4:41 PM on August 11, 2006

My favorite is Sin City by Graham Parsons
posted by Kloryne at 4:58 PM on August 11, 2006

The Smashing Pumpkins' GATGC was mentioned, and there are other songs off Machina with apocalyptic imagery, such as Blue Skies Bring Tears ("unleash the armageddon / so all the children go to heaven") and Wound ("last night i turned around and thought i watched the world ending / inside the crushing i felt a pang, the tide was turning").

Also, if you enjoyed Canticle, the Hyperion/Endymion series by Dan Simmons has similar sci-fi Catholic weirdness.
posted by erikgrande at 4:59 PM on August 11, 2006

Life During Wartime by the Talking Heads

And a little known blues number "I'm gonna dig myself a Hole" by Arthur Crudup about the day the nukes fly
posted by rileyray3000 at 5:08 PM on August 11, 2006

"Six Days" by DJ Shadow. I don't know what song the vocal is originally from, but that one definitely qualifies.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 5:12 PM on August 11, 2006

When I listen to the original version of Nick Cave's "Red Right Hand" (as opposed to the Scream 3 version) I can't help but imagine the end of the world coming.
posted by yamel at 5:18 PM on August 11, 2006

"Los Angeles is Burning," by Bad Religion.

"Two Tribes" by Frankie Goes to Hollywood.
posted by frogan at 5:19 PM on August 11, 2006

Lungfish does many songs that cryptically/mystically reference the end of the world. For lyrical contrast to Waits' "Earth Died Screaming":
"The world vanished in a gentle breeze" , from "Ann The Word", on Lungfish's Artificial Horizon album.
posted by zoinks at 5:23 PM on August 11, 2006

Kimota, I always thought I Remember the Sun was about how much better life was when we were kids. And I thought I was an XTC fan. Oh, well. How about Living Through Another Cuba? Almost every song by Pixies feels apolyptic to me for some reason, perhaps because I listened to so much my senior year of college.
posted by mollweide at 5:27 PM on August 11, 2006

erf, that's apocalyptic, not apolyptic
posted by mollweide at 5:27 PM on August 11, 2006

mollwelde, that's so cool. I just re-read the lyrics and can completely see it that way, and wonder if it was meant to be read multiple ways a la 'things we did on grass.' If it were an Andy song, I'd bet money, but with Colin, you never can tell. I'm sure that my mind seized on "super powers" (in the non-comic book sense) one of the first times I heard it and never thought of it any other way.
posted by kimota at 5:44 PM on August 11, 2006

What about "The End" by The Doors? I can't figure out if the lyrics are all that apocalyptic, or if I'm just so used to hearing it at the beginning of Apocalypse Now.
posted by Brak at 5:51 PM on August 11, 2006

Also from the movie Until the End of the World, the song "(I'll Love You) Till The End Of The World" by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds.

The Indigo Girls have one called "Jonas and Ezekiel": ...where the world began/ Prophecies say it's where the world will end."

A lot of Bob Dylan's stuff is suggestive of some sort of apocalyptic or End Times scenario, but since it's all so subject to interpretation, I hesitate to say that it really meets your criteria. The aforementioned "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall" is probably the most obvious choice here, but other contenders include "Desolation Row," "Visions of Johanna" (someone told me the name is Hebrew for "Armageddon". Can anyone confirm?), "Highway 61," "All Along the Watchtower," and maybe "Gates of Eden".

Oh, and let's not forget Creedence's "Bad Moon Rising": I hear hurricanes a blowin'/ I know the end is coming soon.
posted by Clay201 at 6:15 PM on August 11, 2006

The one that jumps out immediately (well, after "In the Year 2525") is 1983 A Merman I Should Turn to Be by Jimi Hendrix. Magical when you listen to that going into Moon Turn the Tides Gently, Gently Away.
posted by Iamtherealme at 7:41 PM on August 11, 2006

Wooden Ships, Crosby Stills & Nash:
Horror grips us as we watch you die / All we can do is echo your anguished cries / Stare as all human feelings die / We are leaving, you don't need us
posted by bigmuffindaddy at 7:53 PM on August 11, 2006

Early Flaming Lips, esp. "One Million Billionth of a Millisecond on a Sunday Morning."
Jeff Beck - "Morning Dew."
Coldcut - "Atomic Moog 2000," with its samples of Paul Tibbets (I think.)
Nina Simone - "Sinnerman"
Dylan again - "Talkin World War III Blues"
Pop Will Eat Itself - "The Fuses Have Been Lit," but maybe that's just me...
Clash again - "Ivan Meets GI Joe" and "Rebel Waltz"
posted by jessenoonan at 8:34 PM on August 11, 2006

Besides their two other songs mentioned above, Steely Dan's "The Last Mall" and "Everything Must Go" off their last album cover the territory, the latter in a subtler way.
posted by cps at 8:46 PM on August 11, 2006

Two from the same album:

Corb Lund - 5 Dollar Bill

- No Roads Here (preview, lyrics)
(evokes a lonely solitude - actually it would have been a perfect theme for Firefly/Serenity)

- Apocalyptic Modified Blues (preview, lyrics)

Plus there's a ton of other great tracks on this album - on of my favorites from the last 5 years.
posted by jkaczor at 8:47 PM on August 11, 2006

Oh - BTW - great topic, back end of 1999 - I produced a mixed CD containing many of the listed tracks for friends and family, you know - just in-case ;-)
posted by jkaczor at 8:50 PM on August 11, 2006

George Michael - Praying for Time
posted by Crotalus at 9:11 PM on August 11, 2006

Pretty much the entire album Goodbye, Blue Sky by Godley and Creme.
posted by the Real Dan at 9:13 PM on August 11, 2006

Damn browser crashed.

Ok - early Iron Maiden had some definate apocalyptic religious themes. Particularly 'Number of the Beast' and 'Seventh Son of a Seventh Son'.

Next - Metallica - particularly 'And Justice for All' and 'Master of Puppets'.

Ministry - 'Land of Rape and Honey' - You Know What You Are, 'The Mind is a Terrible Thing To Taste' - Faith Collapsing.

Marilyn Manson - The Last Day On Earth

Couple tracks on Love's Secret Domain by Coil.

Patti Smith - Horses/Land of a Thousand Dances - why? It was used at the end of season two of Millenium during an apocalyptic vision/event.

Bob Marley & The Wailers - Redemption Song.
posted by jkaczor at 9:30 PM on August 11, 2006

Other candidates...

"The Day Everything Became Nothing," Nomeansno
"Wars of Armageddon," Funkadelic
"Radioactivity," Kraftwerk
"How Long," Phil Ochs
"Underneath the Bunker," R.E.M.
posted by Vervain at 9:53 PM on August 11, 2006

"Shapes of Things" by the Yardbirds
"We gotta get out of this place" by Eric Burdon and the Aminals
posted by livinginmonrovia at 10:09 PM on August 11, 2006

"Black Hole Sun" by Soundgarden
posted by Stauf at 10:28 PM on August 11, 2006

An old college favorite of mine : Fishbone's fantastic Party At Ground Zero ...

and a current favorite : Thom Yorke's recent album The Eraser is all pretty apocalyptic. Great 'end times' style cover art to gaze at while listening, as well.
posted by General Zubon at 10:45 PM on August 11, 2006

How 'bout A Smart Kid by Porcupine Tree? "Stranded here on planet earth/ It's not much but it could be worse/ Everything's free here, there's no crowds"
posted by baggers at 11:00 PM on August 11, 2006

My wife suggests the Apocalypse Now soundtrack album, or Beethoven's Ninth.

For an exteded, post-aopcalypic vibe, Peggy Suicide by Julian Cope. The whole thing has an apocalyptic feel, particularly the last track Las Vegas Basement. Crazy stuff that an amazon reviewer described as being like "St. Augustine on acid".
posted by baggers at 11:16 PM on August 11, 2006

"Ask" by The Smiths (only for "If it's not Love then it's the Bomb, the Bomb, the Bomb, the Bomb, the Bomb that will bring us together").

"Chemical Warfare" by the Dead Kennedys has a "musical" interlude that is reminiscent of fearful panic that is associated with the Apocalypse, though it's about a biological weapon unleashed at a country club.
posted by bitpart at 11:47 PM on August 11, 2006

I never expected so many answers! You have all made my day (and weekend)! I will have to share my playlists in a little while. I hope that others have been inspired to make their own too, with all this material to work with. Thank you!
posted by nelleish at 5:37 AM on August 12, 2006

Just another vote for Peter Gabriel's "Here Comes the Flood." Get the Fripp version from Exposure, which is much more haunting than the album version. (I can email if you want.) One of my all time favorite songs and always makes me shiver:

Lord, here comes the flood
We'll say goodbye to flesh and blood
If again the seas are silent
in any still alive
It'll be those who gave their island to survive
Drink up, dreamers, you're running dry.

posted by CunningLinguist at 5:53 AM on August 12, 2006

(Dammit...the Sigue Sigue Sputnik track way upthread should be "M.A.D.", not "Massive Retaliation".)
posted by Vervain at 8:47 AM on August 12, 2006

Lisa Germano - From a Shell
But the world fell down
With some people still around
There is love, there is love
To be found
With the Gods all gone
And the souls making sounds

posted by idiotfactory at 9:03 AM on August 12, 2006

Rather obvious, The End by The Doors...
posted by Rufus T. Firefly at 11:45 AM on August 12, 2006

Or Surprise! You're Dead- Faith No More
posted by Rufus T. Firefly at 11:48 AM on August 12, 2006

equalpants mentioned a Pere Ubu song called "Final Solution" -- don't know their version (or if it's even the same song) but Peter Murphy's even has an explosion sound-effect.
posted by Rash at 12:30 PM on August 12, 2006

Political Science by Randy Newman
posted by RussHy at 10:34 PM on August 12, 2006

I'm amazed no one mentioned: "It's The End of the World As We Know it (and I Feel Fine)" by REM.

Also, "So Long, Mom (A Song for World War III)" by Tom Lehrer
posted by Jahaza at 6:39 AM on August 13, 2006

The Fall by Peter and the Wolf is gorgeous.
posted by mayfly wake at 12:05 PM on August 13, 2006

Oh, and "Final Day," by Young Marble Giants.
posted by lisa g at 6:30 PM on August 26, 2006

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