Inspired by a former editor, I’ve assembled a list of songs to put you in the mood for Jesus Christ’s return to earth tomorrow. I happen to live just a few short miles from the Oakland headquarters of Harold Camping’s Family Radio, the evangelical broadcasting network that is responsible for the thousands of billboards around the world proclaiming May 21, 2011, as the beginning of the Apocalypse. (Camping says the world isn’t actually going to end until Oct. 21, so anyone who isn’t raptured Saturday still has some time to get their affairs in order, although they’ll have to work around the earthquakes, plagues and various other catastrophes.)
Obviously, I’m not the first person to come up with the idea for a Rapture playlist, but I’ll take advantage of any opportunity to talk about what an awesome album “Bone Machine” is. I’m a little unclear on exactly how much time you have to listen to these songs—it’s already after 3 a.m. Saturday in Jerusalem, which is the time zone I assume Jesus has his watch set to—so you’d better get cracking.
1. “Apocalypse Please,” Muse
Apocalyptic lyrics: “Come on it’s time for something biblical / … And this is the end, the end / this is the end of the world.”
Doesn’t get much more straightforward than that. The frequently over-the-top English band also does a great job of capturing all the bombast that any good Apocalypse anthem needs.
2. “Calamity Song,” The Decemberists
Apocalyptic lyrics: “Had a dream / you and me and the war of the end-times / and I believe / California succumbed to the fault line / we heaved relief / as scores of innocents died.”
This is from the Portland band’s excellent new album, The King is Dead. If Colin Meloy’s vision is correct, Nebraska can expect to be ravaged by barbarian hordes as early as next week.
3. “Dies Irae” from Giuseppe Verdi‘s Messa da Requiem
Apocalyptic lyrics: “Dies irae, dies illa / solvet saeclum in favilla / teste David cum Sibylla,” which I’m sure I don’t have to tell you translates as, “The day of wrath, that day will dissolve the world in ashes / as David and the Sibyl prophesied.”
Why limit your playlist to the rock ‘n’ roll era? Classical composers were writing about the end of the world centuries before R.E.M., and nobody made it sound like the type of raging disaster that Camping is predicting better than Verdi.
4. “Earth Died Screaming,” Tom Waits
Apocalyptic lyrics: “There was thunder, there was lightning / then the stars went out/ and the moon fell from the sky / it rained mackerel, it rained trout / and the great day of wrath has come/ and here’s mud in your big red eye.”
Somehow, it wouldn’t surprise me if it turned out that Bone Machine was produced post-Apocalypse and then transported back in time to 1992.
5. “It’s the End of the World as we Know It (And I Feel Fine),” R.E.M.
Apocalyptic lyrics: Aside from the chorus and the opening earthquake, there’s this: “Dummy with the Rapture and the revered and the right, right.”
We are legally obligated to include this song.
6. “The Man Comes Around,” Johnny Cash
Apocalyptic lyrics: You mean aside from the opening reading of Revelation 6:1-2, “it’s Alpha and Omega’s kingdom come,” “the virgins are all trimming their wicks,” “’til Armageddon no shalam, no shalom,” “hear the trumpets, hear the pipers / one hundred million angels singing,” the closing reading of Revelation 6:6,8, and the fact that the entire song is about Christ judging the quick and the dead?
7. “Rapture,” Blondie
Apocalyptic lyrics: You know, I’m not sure this one really is about the capital-R Rapture. It does talk an awful lot about a man from Mars going around eating cars and bars, which is just about as likely to happen as anything Camping’s followers are expecting.