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Eight Songs That Are Genuinely Terrifying (But Still Incredible): The Cure, R.E.M., and more

 

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There's plenty of dark and depressing music out there (and I listen to a bunch of it), but finding a song that's dark and terrifying is very rare. Death metal bands may attempt to be scary, but their music ends up being more cartoonishly fun than genuinely frightening. Here are eight great songs that are genuinely frightening.

1. Suicide - "Frankie Teardrop" (1977)

When you buy an album from a band called "Suicide" with blood on the cover, you probably shouldn't expect a good time. The synth-punk duo's most famous song is this pulsating ten-minute nightmare about a guy named Frankie who murders his family. The song is so terrifying that Tom Scharpling of The Best Show on WFMU created "The Frankie Teardrop Challenge", in which he challenged his listeners to try and listen to the entire song while in complete darkness.

2. Slint - "Don, Aman" (1991)

Though every song on Slint's Spiderland is unsettling in its own right, the darkest has to be "Don, Aman." While the lyrics tell a seemingly insignificant story of a man who embarrasses himself at a party, the dissonant acoustic strumming suggests something much more sinister beneath the surface.

3. Radiohead - "Climbing Up the Walls" (1997)

Inspired by Thom Yorke's time working as an orderly in a mental hospital, "Climbing Up the Walls" is easily the darkest song on their classic OK Computer album (just listen to that blood-curdling scream at the end), as well as the first indication of the dark places the band would go with its subsequent albums.

4. R.E.M. - "Feeling Gravity's Pull" (1985)

R.E.M.'s first two LPs are, for the most part, filled with upbeat songs, which makes the first three notes of "Feeling Gravity's Pull," the opening track on their third LP Fables of the Reconstruction, so unexpected. The chromatic guitar riff signals the more (southern) gothic direction the band would take on this album.

5. Portishead - "Threads" (2008)

Portishead has always written dark, hip-hop-inspired music, but its industrial Third LP is a different beast entirely. The eerie darkness of the album culminates with "Threads", which has typical Portishead lyrics about mental anguish, but with a guitar riff and synth drone straight out of a David Lynch film.

6. Pink Floyd - "The Trial" (1979)

Any song that shares a title with a book by Franz Kafka is going to be pretty strange. After 73 minutes of dreamy guitar rock, Pink Floyd's rock opera The Wall descends into what sounds like a song for a Disney film that was rejected for being too terrifying for small children, or pretty much anyone else. The animation that goes along with the song for the album's movie adaptation definitely doesn't make it any lighter.

WARNING: Some nudity and other images that will give you nightmares

7. My Bloody Valentine - "Touched" (1991)

The first time my friend Steve heard Loveless, he took off his headphones during this song and said, "What the hell is this?" This brief instrumental track (written by drummer Colm O'Ciosoig) is a synth-string mind game. It throws you off guard with its screaming modulation, then comforts you with a more traditionally pretty melody, and then drags you back into the torrent of synth screams.

8. The Cure - "Lullaby" (1989)

Most of the Cure's magnum opus Disintegration is more crushingly beautiful and romantic than anything else the band has released, but this brief detour into childhood nightmares is one of their best-loved songs, becoming their most successful single. It's probably the best-selling song about being eaten by a spider in history.

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