“Zombieland” — a horror-comedy flick starring Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone and (inexplicably) that girl from “Little Miss Sunshine” — hits theaters today, and since we’re huge fans of gore, head injuries, violence, quips and Jesse Eisenberg, we’ve compiled a special playlist for the occasion. The undead have been a common theme in pop music for decades, from the Zombies to White Zombie to Michael Jackson’s brain-eating-tastic “Thriller.” These are our favorite zombie tunes — 13 of them, in fact, because that’s extra spooky.
The Cranberries, “Zombie” – A crushing, angry song about the ethno-political violence that racked Northern Ireland for more than 30 years. It’s not exactly easy listening, but it’s also probably the most popular “zombie” song ever written, so we’ve included it here. Seriously, if you are of a certain age (say, 25-30), you can remember hearing this tune on the radio — or seeing the video on MTV — every 15 minutes or so. In your he-e-e-e-a-a-a-a-d, indeed.
The Cramps, “Zombie Dance” – Their four-decade reign of campy, S&M-tinged terror came to a close when frontman Lux Interior died earlier this year, but if you wanted a two-minute primer on everything the Cramps were about, well, then look no further than “Zombie Dance.” Primal, Tiki-God pounding? De-tuned buzzsaw guitars? Lux’s virile, deep-voiced vamping? It’s all here.
The Fleshtones, “I Was a Teenage Zombie” – Psycho, lo-fi skuzz from Queens’ finest garage rock outfit, “Teenage Zombie” is the title track to a no-fi 1987 horror flick that has (thanks largely to its soundtrack) become a genuine cult classic. The “Teenage Zombie” video — featuring go-go girls and plenty of guitars — earned steady rotation on MTV back in the day.
The Hooters, “All You Zombies” – Mawkish, generic ’80s power balladry from Philadelphia’s finest white-dude group not named Hall & Oates. This song isn’t actually all that great — I think it’s about events in the Old Testament — and there’s nary a member of the undead to be seen in the video, either, but, hey … it’s got “zombies” in the title!
The Magnetic Fields, “Zombie Boy” – A subtly creepy tune about romancing (okay, humping) the dead, sung by a guy — Stephin Merritt — who’s so droll that he might actually be dead.
Michael Jackson, “Thriller” – Perhaps you’ve seen the video?
Misfits, “Astro Zombies” – Was there any doubt the ’Fits would make this list? This is the penultimate track from their classic 1982 album Walk Among Us, and it’s horror-punk at its best: Divebombing guitars, guttural wails, plenty of mentions of extermination and astro zombies ravaging the countryside. Delightfully silly, totally spooky stuff.
Phantom Planet, “Big Brat” – A surging, strutting, Strokes-y track that’s not about zombies per se, but the video sure is. (Actually, I should say “videos,” since they made two — one that chronicled the making of a faux zombie film, and a second that was the faux zombie film.) Also, the self-titled album from which “Brat” was taken ranks up there as one of the decade’s most overlooked gems. Oh, and they named the follow-up Raise The Dead. These dudes are zombie-core to the max.
Sufjan Stevens, “They Are Night Zombies!! They Are Neighbors!! They Have Come Back from the Dead!! Ahhhh!” – Ultra-wordy sorta-funk (as played by a middle school band) about the return of long-dead Civil War soldiers … that also doubles as a metaphor for the ghostly, nearly dead towns and villages in and around Illinois? That Sufjan is a clever guy.
Unearth, “Zombie Autopilot” – I have never actually heard this song, but I needed 13 tracks to make this list extra scary. But somebody does bleed from the head in the video! Boo!
White Zombie, “More Human Than Human” – Bubbly, slide-enhanced robo rock from Mr. Zombie (who really has a Ph.D in this kind of thing) and his former band of misfits. Slightly schlocky, definitely campy, but also kind of dangerous, too. You wouldn’t want to run into this song in a dark alley.
The Zombies, “She’s Not There” – Well, of course! The Zombies were one of the finest rock acts of the ’60s, scored a string of hits and released perhaps the decade’s most overlooked classic, 1968’s Odessey and Oracle. None of their tunes are really about the undead, but, hey, that doesn’t really matter, does it?