Killer Chords and New Wave Echoes

Song Analysis

There is no real clear definition and line between punk and New Wave music, some bands straddle both worlds.

In some cases New Wave music is the rhythms of punk with extended jazz chords and while it was synthesizer heavy, the guitar and its effects were also important to the genre.

One great guitar song that encapsulates gothic punk and New Wave music is "The Killing Moon" by Echo and the Bunnymen.

The Killing Moon, a New and Old Song

Depending on your generation you may know "The Killing Moon" as an 80's young one who loved Echo and the Bunnymen.

Or if you are younger you know this as the starting song to the movie Donnie Darko!

Which was a perfect use of this song!

The minor feeling and dark vibe were probably one of the reasons that movie did so well!

It's a great song for all levels of guitar playing and is often one people have a better chance of singing.

Once you see the chords and get the vibe of the music you realize it isn't anything too hard on the fretting fingers, strumming, or the voice.

If you add this song to your repertoire you will find most age groups like to hear it and even sing along.

The Chords of The Killing Moon

Part of the inspiration for this song comes from using some chords in reverse from David Bowie's hit "Space Oddity".

Instead of the C to Em that Bowie uses, here the band Echo and the Bunnymen use the Em to C.

Instead of an uplifting exploring space vibe we have a more depressing and menacing track from the moon!

This song features heavy minor movements in all sections of intro, verse, chorus, and solos.

The beginning of the song starts in Bm with a quick riff on the 9 th and 7 th frets of the D and G string.

It then moves to the 7 th and 9 th frets of the E string before ending on the 7 th fret of the G string.

If you are still new to guitar, you can keep it simple and strum along the Bm and G chords. However this little intro riff is great to practice hammer-ons and pull offs.

Whether you just strum or pick out the melody, this sets the stage for the incoming vibe of the opening intro chords Bm-G.

After this repeats we move into the verse mentioned above that uses the Em-C. However they add in an Em7 and Cadd9, which both essentially add the D note in, to match and fit with the initial Bm and G.

The chorus keeps the minor feeling going but this time with the chords G and Cm, a I-iv combination.

This is what makes this piece often feel like the anti-song, we keep moving in directions that are dark and gothic rather than an uplifting chorus.

And when the solo comes it is not overly complicated or intense. The overlying chord changes for the solo are Bm-A-G-Em and with an added D before going back into our Em-C verse.

The Rhythm and Effects Used to Get the Vibe

This song had various points of inspiration and another peculiar one was the strum or sound of the balalaika from Russia.

This folk instrument has three strings and is often played in a tremolo and high-pitched style. You don't need a balalaika or to use a specific folk strum but keep that in mind as the sound they were attempting.

The first solo plays off the two strings as a drone, which is common in folk music.

At that time in the 1980's it was very popular to use any world style of music in your song.

This song even starts out briefly with a Spanish flamenco type riff, so there is no shortage of dark imagery and musical motifs.

And while "Killing Moon" can be played simply by a campfire on an acoustic guitar, it is also fun to play it correctly and add some extra effects.

If you have a whammy bar you can use it around the minute mark right before the chorus comes in.

And there are pinch harmonics on the 12 th fret of the E and the 5 th fret of the D string around the 30 second mark.

Pedals that are useful will be anything that gives space and depth, a little reverb, delay, and a touch of phase at times. The point is to give it that lightly spaced-out spooky vibe.

And most of all you need to get the vocals right, they are weak yet powerful, a common theme of the later alternative and emo music that would evolve.

Be sure to keep that minor and sad feeling as you sing this moody tune.

With enough practice all parts of this song are within reach, especially the different guitar techniques featured.

Similar New Wave Styles

Once you know how to play "The Killing Moon" you will find other songs of that era are accessible.

One that comes to mind immediately is the similar "Under the Milky Way" which is also in a minor key and vibe.

The slower New Wave styles inspired by gothic punk and psychedelic sounds often make use of similar extended chords.

For the most part they are not too complicated and easy riffs for bands like Simple Minds, OMD, and The Psychedelic Furs.

These bands like to add in some more complex harmonies into their pop and rock music.

If you are in the mood for the more upbeat New Wave you will want to try Blondie, The Talking Heads, or R.E.M. which has both moody and uplifting hits.

However for some great guitar introspection there is no better song than "The Killing Moon" by Echo and the Bunnymen.

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