Dead Stars by Álvaro Bisama is full of musical references, from traditional Chilean folk music to punk. Jason has collected all the musical references in the novel into a Spotify playlist. Get Dead Stars for your favorite ereader so you can listen and read along!
1. Public Image Ltd.
This is not a Love Song
[The title/chorus of this one is the book’s epigraph.]
I’ve always liked Johnny Rotten’s facial contortions, even though I was never much of a Sex Pistols fan. I put in some serious high school hours listening to a Taang! Records sampler called “The Onslaught,” that had a Keith Levene song, and I liked the PiL songs on the radio.
2. The The
Love is Stronger than Death
[Chapter 2, “Then there was a song with the line ‘Love is stronger than death.’”]
(Note: This reference appears during the wife’s description of a movie she was obsessed with. The movie is “Nowhere”.)
I was happy to see this my first time through the book. As a kid buying music before the internet, The The’s “Dusk,” the LP this song appeared on, was one of my early cassette purchases, based solely on the cover art if I remember correctly. This song is a serious blast of nostalgia for me, and for an album I grabbed without first hearing a note of, I’m pleasantly surprised by how well the whole thing holds up. I really miss the gamble that buying music was before the internet—“I’ve got 11 dollars, enough for some candy and a tape… do I get the one with the weird demon drawing or the one with the cooler name?”
3. Iron Maiden
2 Minutes to Midnight
[Chapter 8, “I secretly listened to Iron Maiden”]
This one didn’t mention a specific song. I’m not the obsessive Maiden fan that many of my friends are, but I’ve always liked “2 Minutes to Midnight.” Powerful stuff, from the aptly titled “Powerslave.” I love the idea of secretly listening to music—more nostalgia for someone who spent a fair amount of time cutting the parental advisory stamp out of cassettes bought with squirreled away lunch money.
4. Silvio Rodríguez
[Chapter 17, “There was a little TV and a stereo that played Silvio Rodríguez cassettes or salsa records.”]
Everything I know about Silvio Rodríguez, I learned from Wikipedia in the course of finding a song to add to this list. Here you go.
5. Rubén Blades
[Chapter 17, “This was during the time when salsa was popular around the university thanks to those Rubén Blades songs with lyrics about the disappeared.”]
I have to admit that the last time I thought about Rubén Blades was probably in a Spanish I classroom in 1992. The title seems to fit the bill.
6. Orquesta Huambaly
Corazón de Melón
[Chapter 18, “Sorry, but I never listened to salsa. I hate cumbia and all that shit.”]
I may have completely whiffed on this one because I made this list a few weeks ago and cannot remember how I arrived at this song to go with this quote from the book. They are Chilean, so that probably has something to do with it. They were active in the 50s and early 60s. Anyway, this song is great.
7. Soda Stereo
[Chapter 28, “She complained because they weren’t playing “Luna Roja,” and she insisted that Alberti was coming to see her that weekend.”]
This song is from the 1992 album “Dynamo.” I hadn’t heard Soda Stereo before putting this list together, and to me they sound like sort of a poppier version of shoegaze. I won’t turn my nose up at the psych guitar outro.
8. Pablo Milanés, Silvio Rodríguez
[Chapter 28, “There were a few bands that played Andean music, and a couple Pablo Milanés clones.”]
I guess this is the Chilean version of an aspiring Bob Dylan breaking out his acoustic guitar at a party? Punishing.
[Chapter 32, “El trago lo pone mal a uno, as Los Electrodomésticos say.”]
Spotify doesn’t have the quoted song, so here’s the Electrodomesticos song I liked best after skimming through what’s available. The quoted song, “Yo La Quería,” is available on YouTube:
[Chapter 37, “His friend still had the same Metallica posters on the wall that he’d had two years earlier, before Donoso left the city.”]
There’s no specific song mentioned, so I went with “Battery.” Somehow I always neglected Metallica in favor of Slayer (not that the two are mutually exclusive), and by the time I paid attention they were releasing the black album, which I hated. All the early thrash records are great, though.
11. Los Galos
Cancion Para Una Esposa Triste
[Chapter 37, “They would eat in silence, with the television tuned to the news or the radio to a Nueva Ola station.”]
Another genre that’s totally new to me. Wikipedia tells me Los Galos were a popular Chilean Nueva Ola band, and a song for a sad wife seems thematically appropriate for Dead Stars-. I’m into this song, it’s a bit like some of the bands I discovered by digging through my parents old 45s in high school.
[Chapter 39, “Things happened that semester. Kurt Cobain killed himself.”]
No song mentioned, and since you can throw a dart at a list of Nirvana songs and not hit a bad one, that’s basically what I did.
13. The Exploited
I Believe in Anarchy
[Chapter 45, “That night, doped up on syrup, I put on an album by The Exploited and waited for sleep to come, but nothing happened; there in the darkness I welcomed into my arms a legion of unborn children descending from the ceiling to embrace me.”]
What’s more popular, their music or their logo?
[Chapter 47, “The night of the beating, when he got back from the hospital, he played a bootleg Upa! cassette at full blast on the stereo and tried to hang himself with his belt in the bathroom.”]
Upa! Is not available on Spotify. Here’s a song I found on YouTube.
14. Minor Threat
[Chapter 50, “She was straight edge. She’d drawn an “X” on the back of her hand. Nothing more pathetic than being straight edge in the asshole of the world.”]
What can I add to that quote except to remember doing the same thing for the latter half of the 90s and cringe?
15. The Pixies
Monkey Gone to Heaven
[Chapter 56, “When I regained consciousness, the song was still playing. It was saying: This monkey’s gone to heaven.”]
Another standard band for my generation that I somehow never got into. This song sort of reminds me of the Replacements at times.
[Chapter 60, “Next to the hotel there was a bar where they used to play death metal.”]
Just a genre here, but I like this Obituary record, and I think they were probably pretty popular in South America, so I added it. “I’ll doooooo what I waaaaannnttt.”
17. The Dead Kennedys
Holiday in Cambodia
[Chapter 66, “The music was still there. The DKs. Holiday in Cambodia.”]
My buddy Rick made me a DKs mix tape when we were in middle school and I instantly loved them. This song was on the soundtrack for one of my favorite mid-90s skate videos:
18. Violeta Parra
[Chapter 78, “Maybe she listened to a song by Violeta Parra there in Antofagasta, or on the bus.”]
I hadn’t heard her before this. I like this song. Strong voice.
Books and music are two things we really like here at Ox and Pigeon. Check out a couple of our other music- and literature-related posts including Herman Melville and Led Zeppelin or Bertoldt Brecht and Pugh Rogefeldt.