If there was ever a music movement that was so definitely of its time, so unlikely to ever enjoy any kind of commercial or even underground resurgence, it’s goth. Yet wandering town after nightfall is a new generation of Horrors-fixated youth, skulking about beneath implausibly elevated hair through a mess of black eyeliner, and Brighton bands like The Gaa Gaa’s and Pink Narcissus continue to fly the flag. For those who still live the original dream and don’t venture outside during daylight hours, it’s a different world out there – these six essential albums from the first wave of goth are now available on something called ‘CD’.
Unashamedly gloomy; their cheekbones cast doubt that a single square meal had ever passed a member’s lips. On ‘Mask’, their second album, they added surprising elements to the mix that saw standout tracks like ‘Kick In The Eye 2’ and ‘Dancing’ verge on funk rhythms, only to be dragged back down to earth (and then a good six feet under) for ‘Hollow Hills’ and ‘Of Lillies And Remains’. Bauhaus would go on to achieve mainstream prominence with their sooped-up covers of ‘Telegram Sam’ and ‘Ziggy Stardust’, but this, the sound of disaffected and depressed Northampton, would remain unsurpassed by them or any other.
THE SISTERS OF MERCY
‘First And Last And Always’
By the time these Leeds legends got around to releasing their first album proper, they were already longstanding stalwarts of the scene via a series of indispensable EPs like ‘Alice’, and theirs was the archetypal style to which all latecomers would aspire, their inherent darkness completely off the Dulux colour chart. From the intense gloom-laden strains of ‘Black Planet’ to the final dying embers of ‘Some Kind Of Stranger’, this was the sound of goth at the peak of its powers. The more commercial follow-up ‘Floodland’, saw them grace Top Of The Pops, their new overground status leaving their fanbase blinking painfully in the light. Alien Sex Fiend ‘Who’s Been Sleeping In My Brain?’
ALIEN SEX FIEND
‘Who’s Been Sleeping In My Brain?’
Apt to performing in a t-shirt proclaiming’I’M A FUCKING MANIAC’, Nik Fiend was the demented Dickensian rag-bag front man of Alien Sex Fiend, backed by his wife Mrs Fiend and the probably-not-Christened-that-way Yaxi Highriser and Johnnie Ha-Ha. Early stars of London’s Batcave club, ASF provided cranked-up, drum machine-backed rock’n’roll. Live, they were a fearsome proposition in the days of Ha-Ha’s percussive duel with the rockbox, and on record they came across like a black whirlwind of sound. More slasher horror than gothic in the Mary Shelley sense, they provided some light relief in the face of their more po-faced counterparts.
After fits and starts around vaguely breezy lo-fi new wave, ‘Pornography’ was a dramatic turning off of the lights, intoning ‘It doesn’t matter if we all die’ as the album’s opening salvo. From this moment the mood actually manages to drop, in a spectacularly miserable outing for Robert Smith and co. But the depth of the mood by no means detracts from the quality of work showcased here. Dark and turgid we can’t forgive, but this has a vitriol to it whose rhythmic anger shapes the bleak themes of songs like ‘The Hanging Garden’ to devastating effect. ‘The Love Cats’ it ain’t.
FIELDS OF THE NEPHILIM
At first glance The Neph were blatant Sisters copyists, adding some Sergio Leone desert chic (ie covering themselves with flour to indicate a wild life of bakery shoot-outs) to the wide-brimmed hat look perfected by Eldritch. But they took a healthy development route from the independent charts into the top 40 proper with the single ‘Moonchild’, included here. The album’s dusty bluster is relentless throughout save for the more melancholic ‘Celebrate’, assuring them of rabid devotion – their stint at the top of goth’s tree would last until the original scene as a whole faded around the turn of the 90s.
THE VIRGIN PRUNES
‘Sons Find Devils’
Now here was a band to test the steely reserve of even the most seasoned goth. Their origins were as a group of weirdo Dublin art-schoolers who split into two bands – the Prunes and some rock combo called U2. Taking heavy doses of theatricality with them, their music was challenging and ambitious, but this live collection contains their most accessible and, at times, brilliant work, in ‘Pagan Love Song’, ‘Caucasian Walk’ and ‘A New Form Of Beauty’. Front man Gavin Friday would eventually tire of his art-shocking and retire gracefully to cabaret-style singing, at which he was surprisingly adept.
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