What does it sound like?:
1983 in La Phonographique in Leeds, or the Batcave in London. Probably.
Venus in Furs with a drum machine. And surprisingly, quite a lot else. There are a lot of echoey vocals and guitars, lyrics in low tones about death, and rigid percussion (when it’s not a straight drum machine). But you knew that.
It doesn’t sound like a summer in the park, but it’s ideal for winter in a rainy Northern town.
What does it all *mean*?
Goth is one of those genres where the leading lights claim that they were never themselves part of it. But if you think Goth you think: The Cure, Sisters of Mercy, Bauhaus, The Mission and Siouxsie & The Banshees. All present and correct apart from Siouxsie, who is ably represented by a number of sound alikes (Attrition, All about Eve amongst others).
This is not Goth’s greatest hits but a 5 CD/83 track deeper dive. The big bands are represented by mostly lesser known tracks, and there are lots of one Peel Session wonders who never got so far that Grunge could kill them off. There are some names you would not normally associate with Goth, including Adam & the Ants, The Associates and Theatre of Hate. Others seems more Goth adjacent than actual Goth, but were certainly beloved and here sound suitably Gothic (The Damned not surprisingly, but also Cocteau Twins and Public Image) and a couple of Goth pre-cursors in Joy Division and Nico herself on a rare track “Saeta”.
Of the actual Goth bands you can have fun both running their names together (Gene Loves Jezebel And Also Trees, Dead Can Dance In the Nursery) and working out who they were particularly influenced by (both Siouxsie and the Sisters score highly). But it is not all derivative, and you can hear how some of this might grow to influence both Grunge and Electronic music in the next decade before metastasing into EMO. As well some of the bands progressing out of the crypt to major stardom (we get both Southern Death Cult and Death Cult, leaving The Cult to our imagination).
There is a leaflet with a 2 page history of the genre and a few paragraphs about each of the bands. The photos make it hard to believe now that this was a scene with a reputation for solemnity – the bands look flamboyant, deliberately OTT and terribly young. As the leaflet notes, the hole in the ozone layer is probably directly attributable to the amount of hair spray required to maintain the required haircut. The image and scene may have sold a million t-shirts but the music was essential too.
The early electronic drums have generally aged badly, as have the worst of the vocals of half spoken vampire poetry. But overall it’s still enjoyable all these years down the road from Leeds (other Goth cities were available, but that one was mine). (Oh and my mate told me to mention his favourites: Fields of the Nephilim)
Goes well with…
Cider and black, and dogs on ropes.
Might suit people who like…
The hours of darkness, Black & White German Vampire movies, and books.
People who wear black on the outside because they feel black on the inside.