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Forget the emo and metal kids who’ve inherited goth’s angst but none of its class.
The stylish, experimental, theatrical founding spirit of goth is alive and well elsewhere: in the windswept murder ballads of Zola Jesus, the thumping electronic pop of White Car and Frank (Not Frank), in the decaying electronics of Raime and Leyland Kirby, the kohl-eyed darkwave of Cold Cave. 01: BAUHAUS ‘BELA LUGOSI’S DEAD’ (SMALL WONDER 12″, 1979) Bauhaus embody the escapist, self-dramatizing spirit of goth.
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It would be some time before I realised that Spiders wasn’t merely accepting of minors’ custom, but wholly reliant upon it. The music emanating from the dancefloor is some unremarkable Britpop hit or other. I’d seen plenty of goths before – they’re an enduring fixture of suburban life – but until this point I’d never witnessed them in their element. So what follows is an idealised portrait of goth in its infancy. I’ve ignored goth acts who were popular and important to the scene’s development on the grounds that I simply don’t like their music – so no Fields Of The Nephilim, no Mission, no Danielle Dax, etc.
It wasn’t pretty, witnessing them in their element, but it was kind of endearing. I’ve privileged those records that are compelling: as much as goth was about excess, the shadow of Martin Hannett looms heavy over its best records, with minimalist arrangements and cavernous production the going rate.
Back when they were first trying to get signed, they issued a rather than an audio tape to record companies. When Murphy’s campy, crudely overdubbed vocal arrives some two minutes in, you know you’re dealing with one of the all-time great pop singles. ” , he’s button-holed in the chapel’s carpark by a shock-haired, mascara’d and flower-bearing couple who wish to convey how much Curtis meant to them, how he won’t be forgotten.
Over the course of the four albums that they cut between ’80 and ’83, the musical identity of Bauhaus was stretched in several different directions by its members (sometimes literally: see 1981’s puckish four-part composition ‘1. The message is clear, and undeniable: Joy Division begat goth.
Hailing from none-more-bland Northampton and led by rake-thin and androgynously handsome Peter Murphy, the band’s persona erred on the side of pantomime, but their decision to break away from the spartan realist image of punk and its immediate offspring now seems nothing if not bold. There was no such confusion or conflict on their sleek, self-possessed debut single: referencing the Hungarian actor best known for playing the titular Count in Tod Browning’s 1931 ‘Bela’ clocked in at an exquisitely arrogant 9 minutes – goodbye to punk’s loaded brevity – and could have justifiably gone on even longer.
Like their hero Bowie, Bauhaus understood the importance of fantasy, and how that’s bound up in the visual: from sleeve art to clothing, make-up to stage lighting. The loping intro is particularly inspired, ramping up the suspense to an unbearable level as reverbed ghost train FX shudder in and around Kevin Haskins’ bone-dry drums, David J”s descending bassline striated with Daniel Ash’s malevolent swipes of guitar.
Easily one of the largest, longest-running, most famous and most varied Goth festivals in the world, Wave Gotik Treffen is a raucous meeting of Goth, Cybergoth, Steampunk and other fringe subcultures from Friday night to Tuesday morning over Pentecost in Leipzig, Germany.