Dia de Muertos, if you’re not familiar, translates as the Day of the Dead. It’s an annual holiday in many countries of Latin America, and one of most important holidays on the calendar. The celebration stretches beyond time. It connects the living to the dead and binds the past to the future. So, you know, it’s way more than just an excuse to paint your face like a skeleton. Scholars say it’s an ancient holiday that was celebrated in pre-Colombian times by the Aztec. After the Spanish arrived, the people of Central America, in order to maintain this custom, shifted the date of their celebration from the summer months to coincide with a Catholic holiday, November 1st, All Souls Day.
Both holidays had the same intent, to honor the dead, it’s just that the indigenous did it with a very different expression. It’s akin to how two chefs will create very different dishes from the same ingredients. Inspired by the Aztec tradition, modern families honor their dead relatives with shrines called ofrendas, and they decorate them with candles, flowers such as marigolds, candy skulls, clay figurines, favorite foods, drinks, and personal items. And you can kinda tell it’s a holiday born of a pre-Colombian celebration because skeletons aren’t really a big Catholic thing. That’s the beauty of it. Despite the Spanish invasion, the indigenous people were able to maintain a link to their culture by grafting their traditions onto Catholicism. It’s an interesting, beautiful and unexpected result of two cultures merging, and gave the world this hybrid holiday. Growing up for most of my life in California, it’s one of my favorites days on the calendar. It’s way cooler than Halloween. Mostly, it’s a rad holiday because it takes the piss out of death. Dia de Muertos reminds you that your effect in this world lingers long after you leave. So, you know, leave a good ripple. I like reminders like that. In honor of this important tradition…
Here are 11 “Dead” bands to help you celebrate in musical style. Enjoy!
1. Grateful Dead “Touch of Grey” (VH-1 Pop-Up Video Edition)
You know the Grateful Dead had to be on this list. This is their only really music video. And it’s the VH-1 Pop-Up Video version, (you’re welcome). That way you can learn some funny-cool shit about the band as you groove on their loopy, stoney jam band vibe.
2. Death Cab For Cutie “I Will Possess Your Heart”
And… c’mon, you may not love ‘em, but radio-friendly Death Cab for Cutie had to be on this list, too. Not only do they have one of the silliest band names ever but they actually make really catchy pop songs. Don’t tell anyone, but I actually kind like this one. I remember when I’d hear on the radio as I was driving around and well… I wouldn’t change the channel. If you need a little something to smooth out your workday and ease you into your weekend… well, this one’s for you!
Yes! This song! This band! This is one of my favorite fucking tracks… ever! It sounds like what skating a half-pipe feels like. And this is a live version so you can get the feel of what one of their shows was like back in the day. Sweaty-ass punk rock like this has an energy you can’t fully replicate on an album. Be sure to check lead singer, Jello Biafra, in this one. The dude is a legend. And this video will kick the shit out of your day if you’re having a bad one. Enjoy!
4. Dethklok “Dethsupport”
Okay, I won’t lie… sometimes I have very suspect taste in music. To prove it, I love Dethklok. I know they’re not technically a real band. I know they’re animated. But they make real music videos, they release real albums, and real musicians play on their songs. And on their television show on Adult Swim real musicians like Metallica’s Kirk Hammett and James Hetfield do guest spots. Even if you hate death metal, this song, and more specifically this music video should give you a grin.
5. Megadeth “Symphony of Destruction”
What would a list of “dead/death” bands be without one of the most self-serious bands to ever headbang? You gotta have some Megadeth!! Dave Mustaine is hilarious because he’s sooo serious. I think he’s always been pissed ever since he was kicked out of Metallica and started his own band… of course, this was the result. Metalli-can’t. This is one of their bigger hits and I dare you to check this video and not be amused by the chimpanzee. That’s right! This video features a chimpanzee in a business suit. And just as The Simpsons pointed out, monkeys are always funny… from Chimpan-A to Chimpanzee!
6. The Dead Milkmen “Punk Rock Girl”
As you may guess, I’m rather partial to punk rock. Here are The Dead Milkmen with their sweet seminal hit, “Punk Rock Girl.” Don’t know about you but there have been a few punk rock girls who stole my heart. So for all the punk rock girls out there, this one’s for you!
7. Death “Politicians In My Eyes”
Originally called Rock Fire Funk Express, hailing from Detroit, Michigan… we have one of the first proto-punk bands… Death. They were an oddity on the scene because they were an all-black punk band from the Midwest… so, you know they meant it. They’ve recently enjoyed a moment in the sun as a result of the emerging Afropunk movement and a really cool documentary about them that was released earlier this year. If ever there was a band perfect for this list, it’s the one, the only… Death!
8. Dead Can Dance “The Carnival Is Over”
I don’t really listen to this band. But this video is just odd enough to totally capture my attention span with all its strange beauty. If you like weird shit, this one’s for you!
9. The Dead Boys “Sonic Reducer” (Live at CBGB 1979)
I know, there’s a good amount of punk rock on this list. You were warned. But hey! I saved this list from just becoming 11 death metal bands from Scandinavia and all of them saddled with names like Nuclear Death Terror, Deathchain, Angel Death, Deathmarch, Accept Death and Living Death. Those are all real bands by the way. You’re welcome. I’m looking out for you, we can’t turn your Friday into some gloomy, bleak send-off into your weekend. You need something to put some fire in your spine. So… here’s another legendary punk band! Performing live at the (now defunct) CBGB’s in New York. Watch as Stiv Bators and the rest of The Dead Boys kick the living shit out of apathy.
10. Theory of a Deadman “Bad Girlfriend”
Another band with raw energy, although far more polished than say the rough and tumble, spitting fury of The Dead Kennedys. This band is what’s become of the punk spirit. And if you’re getting over a break-up… well, this song’s for you!
11. The Dead Weather “It Cuts Like A Buffalo”
Last, and far from least, we have one of Jack White’s other bands. This video is beautiful. The opening introduction couldn’t be more perfect for the purposes of this holiday:
“Ladies and Gentleman, this next song is a dance. It’s a damn good one. The name of it is… It Cuts Like A Buffalo. And you know what that means… That means you’re dead! Praise God! Thank you, God!”
Let Jack White’s brilliance usher you into the rest of your day. And remember to say a prayer for your revered dead. Or if you’re not the praying sort… well, just be glad you haven’t swelled their numbers… at least, not yet. So go on and leave a good ripple.
And if you want more information, here’s a documentary on the holiday.
Enjoy your Dia de Muertos!