Celebrate Yuri's Night 2013 with These Songs about Dying Alone in the Darkness of Space!
Say what you will about Nikita Khrushchev, but the man knew how to make the poignant-songs-about-cosmonauts train run on time. April 12 marks Yuri's Night 2013 -- a chance to party on an even larger and more scientific scale than Earth Day -- and the 52nd anniversary of Yuri Gagarin's famous manned space flight, in which he became the first human to ever kill a dog while in orbit, I think.
It's a great idea. But it's also new enough, holiday-wise, that there isn't yet a stable source of Yuri's Night songs and Space Day-related song listicles. That's where we come in. Here are five banging party jams about dying alone in the unspeakable emptiness of outer space!
Honorable Mention: Just the cover from Bad Religion's Into the Unknown
In honor of their headlining performance at next week's That Damn Show , listen to these space-themed songs while staring at the cover of Into the Unknown , Bad Religion's out-of-print, weirdly compelling prog-rock album from 1983.
On Yuri's Night, just project this onto a white wall and think.
You won't regret it.
1. The Arcade Fire: "Neighborhood 2 (Laika)"
This one goes out to every use of Laika the space dog in literature (including my favorite contemporary novel, Sputnik Sweetheart ) and music (including my favorite soundtrack to a brilliant 1990s TV show, Polaris' The Adventures of Pete and Pete .) The Arcade Fire went full-Laika on their first album, Funeral , comparing an adventurous older brother Alexander (maybe the Into the Wild Alexander) with the original canine symbol of noble, suicidal alienation.
2. Weezer: "Blast Off!"
Weezer's space opera is a staple of lost-masterpieces lists, but it's also notable for a narrative that's much weirder than we could have imagined back when we started making those lists. Namely: The plot hinges (spoiler alert) on bassist Matt Sharp's character having a conspicuously large penis, and ended at one point -- according to pepole who had the money to buy The Pinkerton Diaries , which are exactly what they sound like -- with Rivers Cuomo Armageddon-ing himself after losing both that dog.'s Rachel Haden and Joan Wasser of the Dambuilders.
(At an earlier point in his writing, they were apparently an actual band that is metaphorically going into space.) Most of Black Hole only exists in demo form, but last year several members of the AllThingsWeezer forum produced a remarkably solid complete version under the name Operation Space Opera. It's the perfect soundtrack for a little Yuri's Night existential dread.
3. Quad City DJ's: "Theme from Space Jam"
Sure, watched a certain way, Space Jam is all about a cartoon character and Michael Jordan playing a couple of superhuman games of basketball. But there's something kind of dark and space-lonely about the fate of the universe resting in the hands of several fictional characters, a failed baseball player, and pre-Wes Anderson Bill Murray, who had never stared poignantly out of a single window before reading the script to this film.
Here's your chance: Do your dance at the Space Jam. Because you might not get another.
4. The Long Winters: "The Commander Thinks Aloud"
John Roderick singing about the Columbia disaster, which is just about all I need to hear. We've probably passed the golden age of touching space-song refrains, but the closing "The crew compartment's breaking up / This is all I wanted to bring home to you" section here is just about perfect.
In a spacier time it would have gotten the full Shatner treatment, eventually.
5. Pretty much any David Bowie song, probably.
I can't do all the work for you.
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