Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Goth music - then and now

I am supposed to be off volunteering by now... I overslept, and then thought, "Meh, I'll just check my stats and do a quick post..." Whoa, you guys! I have had the same amount of hits in the last WEEK that I had in all of November! 1,000 hits in one week? I thought 1,000 in a month was good...

So anyway, on with the show, before I scare you all away with my elated ramblings. This post compares four 'traditional' 80s Goth bands with four modern bands who are associated with the scene. I say associated as many may not consider them 'Goth', but from related genres such as darkwave and Industrial, although it's interesting to see how these modern bands, despite the fact that many people would consider them 'less Goth' than the old-school bands, are actually more willing to take on board the 'Goth' label.

The first generation of Gothic rock bands were associated with styles such as punk rock, post-punk and new wave. Some of the late 1970s and 1980s Goth bands created their own record labels or released their material through independent labels such as Beggars Banquet Records; however, as with punk rock, this was not a general rule, as some bands in the movement also appeared on major commercially-successful labels. Most (but not all) of the very early Goth groups were from England.

Joy Division
An English band formed in 1976 in Manchester. Originally named Warsaw, the band primarily consisted of Ian Curtis (vocals, occasional guitar), Bernard Sumner (guitar and keyboards), Peter Hook (bass guitar and backing vocals), and Stephen Morris (drums and percussion). Though initially inspired by punk, Joy Division's sound evolved beyond this early influence and pioneered the new post-punk movement (which, as we know, later became Goth). Joy Division achieved some critical acclaim from the media for their 1979 debut album Unknown Pleasures.

Vocalist Ian Curtis was beset with depression and personal difficulties, including a marital breakdown and a struggle to come to terms with his diagnosis of epilepsy. In May 1980, Curtis committed suicide. The band posthumously released their second album, Closer, and the single Love Will Tear Us Apart became the band's highest charting release. The remaining members reformed as New Order, a new wave band achieving critical and commercial success.

An English band formed in Northampton in 1978. The group consisted of Peter Murphy (vocals), Daniel Ash (guitar), Kevin Haskins (drums) and David J (bass). The band originally went by the name Bauhaus 1919.
"Bela Lugosi's Dead" was the group's debut single, released August 1979 on Small Wonder Records. This is the song credited with kick-starting the Goth scene.

In 1982 Bauhaus scored their biggest hit with a cover of David Bowie's "Ziggy Stardust", which was recorded during a BBC session. The song reached number fifteen on the British charts and earned the band an appearance on Top Of The Pops. That same year Bauhaus made an appearance in the horror film The Hunger, where they performed "Bela Lugosi's Dead" during the opening credits.

Bauhaus first broke up in 1983. Peter Murphy began a solo career while the other members continued as Tones on Tail and, later, Love and Rockets. Both enjoyed greater commercial success in the United States than Bauhaus had. The band reunited for a 1998 tour and on a more permanent basis in 2005. The group announced plans to disband again before the release of their final album, Go Away White (2008).

Bauhaus combined a number of influences including punk music, glam rock, and Krautrock - even funk and dub - to create an influential sound which inspired or brought attention to a whole wave of post-punk groups delving into the intense, gloomy style that would come to be known as Gothic rock. Its crucial elements included Peter Murphy's deep and sonorous voice, Daniel Ash's innovative guitar playing and David J's dub-influenced bass.

Siouxsie and the Banshees
A British band which formed in 1976. Led by Siouxsie Sioux (vocals) and Steven Severin (bass), the band's only constant members, the Banshees formed in the wake of punk rock. From 1977 with the arrival of guitarist John McKay and drummer Kenny Morris, they soon forged a original sound on their debut album The Scream that made them one of the major bands in the post-punk movement. After an enforced change of musical direction leading to a redefining of their image, together with new drummer Budgie and guitarist John McGeoch, the Banshees released several highly acclaimed albums throughout the 80's including Kaleidoscope and A Kiss In The Dreamhouse. The band later knew other lineup changes and enjoyed successful singles like "Peek-a-Boo" and "Kiss Them for Me". Their music influenced a wide range of very diverse bands over the years amongst them The Cure, Massive Attack, Garbage and LCD Soundsystem.
Severin said, "It was a case of us knowing what we didn't want, throwing out every cliche . . . Never having a guitar solo, never ending a song with a loud drum smash." Sioux wanted a guitar sound that sounded like "a cross between the Velvet Underground and the shower scene in Psycho", Severin said, and the band added flanger effects to the instrument. Music critic Simon Reynolds described Sioux's "ice queen voice" as "forbidding, piercing the listener's flesh like a lance".

The band disbanded in 1996, with Sioux and Budgie continuing to record music as The Creatures, a side project they had started in the 1980s. The band reunited briefly for a tour in 2002 and Siouxsie later embarked on a solo career.

The Cure
An English band that formed in Crawley, Sussex in 1976. The band has experienced several lineup changes, with frontman, guitarist and main songwriter Robert Smith being the only constant member.

The Cure first started releasing music in the late 1970s. Their first album, Three Imaginary Boys (1979), and early singles placed them as part of the post-punk and New Wave movements. During the early 1980s the band's increasingly dark and tormented music helped form the Gothic rock genre. After the release of 1982's Pornography, Smith was keen to move past the gloomy reputation his band had cultivated and began to inject more of a pop sensibility into the band's music. The Cure's popularity increased as the decade wore on, especially in the United States, where the songs "Just Like Heaven", "Lovesong" and "Friday I'm in Love" entered the Billboard Top 40 charts. By the start of the 1990s, The Cure were one of the most popular alternative rock bands in the world and have sold an estimated 27 million albums as of 2004.

The Cure's primary musical traits have been listed as "dominant, melodic bass lines; whiny, strangulated vocals; and a lyric obsession with existential, almost literary despair."

Siouxsie and the Banshees
Iconic 80s Goth
Siouxsie Sioux rejected attempts to label the Banshees' music 'Gothic rock', whilst it was the influence of Joy Division and Bauhaus that helped to create this term. Robert Smith said in 2006, "It's so pitiful when 'Goth' is still tagged onto the name The Cure," and added, "We're not categorisable. I suppose we were post-punk when we came out, but in total it's impossible... I just play Cure music, whatever that is." Smith has also expressed his distaste for Gothic rock, describing it as "incredibly dull and monotonous. A dirge really." 

In the mid and late 1990s, major record labels, particularly in the United States and Germany, began marketing rock and metal acts as "Gothic" or "industrial" bands. The formerly underground subcultural aesthetic of Goth was incorporated into the sound and image of several popular mainstream bands such as HIM, Marilyn Manson, and more recently bands like Evanescence and Within Temptation, although these bands did not produce Goth rock. The term "Goth" became associated in the public's mind with these mainstream bands, the Hot Topic chain, and the Columbine school shooting.

The subculture itself was now dominated by dance club attendance, and the sound of Goth adapted in turn: cybergoth-beloved styles of music such as electro-goth and futurepop followed in the footsteps of beat-driven industrial music, using many of the same production techniques and aesthetics, though danceable Industrial music tended to be "harder" while cyber and electro Goth was "softer", with less distortion and minimal influence from metal. Much modern Goth often has the feel of new wave music or synth pop, though there are also "old school" or "first generation" Gothic rock or faux-medieval acts.

Since 2000, some have embraced a deathrock and tradgoth revival, returning to the 1980s music and fashions of the first generation of Goth. The Cure and Bauhaus's high-profile performances since 2004 have also helped to promote the earlier Goth sound, characterized by "jangly" guitars and less club-oriented arrangement.

The Cruxshadows
A group hailing from Florida, their sound is made up of a combination of moody male vocals, electric violin, guitar, and synth. They have enjoyed a great deal of success within the new wave, goth, and darkwave music scenes. Centered around vocalist & songwriter Rogue, the only constant member, The Crüxshadows blends 1980s inspired synth-pop and modern rock with poetic and introspective lyrics.

The band has enjoyed global popularity, releasing CDs worldwide and touring extensively throughout North America, Europe, and Asia. Lyrically much of the Crüxshadows' music draws its influence and subject matter from mythology, religion, history, and dreams. Often referred to with the acronym CXS, their motto is Live Love Be Believe.

They have pipped Beyonce to the top of the Billboard Dance Charts in the US, were the first Goth band ever to perform in China, and have been releasing music since the late 90s. The band is known for extensive touring, appearing at festivals in Europe and North America annually.

Johnny Hollow
Johnny Hollow are a Canadian band consisting of singer Janine White, digital artist Vincent Marcone, and cellist Kitty Thompson. Wikipedia tells us that Vincent Marcone was already known for almost a decade's worth of digital art when launched his website My Pet Skeleton, and asked Janine White to design the sound effects (and now I have a terrible urge to add '...and the rest is history'. But I won't.). My Pet Skeleton quickly rose to the forefront of the web hall of fame, and heartened by this success, Johnny Hollow came together, presenting their first material on the My Pet Skeleton website.

In March 2003 the band set up a small site to announce the release of their self-titled first album. A month later, they were invited to contribute their first single, Bag of Snow, to D-Side's sampler disc, where it was featured alongside artists such as Martin Gore of Depeche Mode, Robin Guthrie of Cocteau Twins, Type O Negative, Goldfrapp and Lisa Gerrard of Dead Can Dance. Many of these artists are cited as having an influence on Johnny Hollow's sound.

Johnny Hollow are best described in their own words."There is a creative famine in the current state of our popular culture. We are living in a world of plastic pop songs that are lip synced by an army of synthetic faces......... We just can't help but feel pinned against a sonic wall by this new wave of starlit mannequins. And to this we say:
Fuck that.
Johnny Hollow won't have it."

Emilie Autumn
Emilie Autumn is an American singer-songwriter, poet, writer and violinist currently living in Chicago who is best known for her wide range of musical styles, especially her usage of theatrics. On her early album, Enchant, Autumn explores a softer side of music, drawing from a more classical, Celtic sound, which she referred to as "fantasy rock". Later, however, she abandoned her fairy-winged, camouflaged, pink-haired image for a more romantic look, incorporating styles from the Victorian era and bright red and pink hair. Her music changed again for her later album, Opheliac, producing an angrier sound incorporating industrial elements electronic beats and her trademark instruments, the violin and harpischord, to create a sound that she dubbed "violindustrial" and "Victoriandustrial".

In the past, Autumn was signed to a major label, but as they took more and more control over her work, she left and formed her own record label, Traitor Records. She currently has a distribution deal with Trisol Music Group GmbH. In the past, she has toured with Courtney Love and recorded backup vocals and the violin for Love and Billy Corgan. Autumn also has her own company, WillowTechHouse, which sells 'punktorian' clothing and accessories, although it has been closed for some time. WillowTechHouse was also where Emilie's own perfume, Mistress, was sold.

In late 2005 she added a backup band of alternative and fetish models to her live line-up, to whom she refers as "The Bloody Crumpets". These have included Vecona, Lady Aprella, Veronica Varlow, Lucina, Apnea (although Apnea does not perform in the UK) and alternative/fetish model Ulorin Vex.

Autumn makes her own clothes and costumes. She also incorporates clothing from Bloody Crumpet member Vecona, who has her own clothing line. Whilst she is strongly associated with and most popular within the Goth scene, many have denied that her music can actually be called 'Goth'.

The Birthday Massacre
A band based in Toronto, Canada, officially formed in 1999. They were known at that time as Imagica, a name taken from a novel by Clive Barker. The original line-up consisted of: Chibi (vocals), Rainbow (guitar and programming), Michael Falcore (guitar), and J. Aslan (bass). Dank played live keyboards and O.E. joined the group on live drums. In 2001, Dank left the group, and shortly thereafter, the band adopted the name The Birthday Massacre. The band has undergone several line-up changes since.

Their sound is somewhere in the muddy waters between Industrial rock and Goth, featuring deceptively sweet female vocals and synthpop-esque beats, and is popular amongst both the Industrial and Goth scenes.
Face of modern Goth?
The Birthday Massacre
Rogue from The Cruxshadows isn't much bothered what the band gets called. "It's not really my problem," he says. "I'm interested in creating music that I really like, that I think our fans will really like and, if it fits those criteria, I can't really worry about the title. I love a lot of different music and I'm just glad people are listening enough to make a decision that we belong in this category or that." When asked about the reasons why Goth culture becomes a focus of attack, he said, "I think it's a way of isolating a group of people and pointing a finger and I think it's unfortunately a normal thing to do, to point a finger at whatever the most obvious blame might go to. We are visible and so they blame us." Note the 'we'. On the band's website, they also refer to themselves as a Goth/indie band.

Emilie Autumn is often pictured wearing a badge/corsage accessory with the embroidered words, "Goths have more fun," and this phrase was featured in the A Bit O' This and That EP as well as on some of her latest T-shirt designs.

"The Birthday Massacre prove Goth is alive and well." -- Caitlin Hotchkiss,

Johnny Hollow are dark and whimsical, but have never described themselves as belonging to any particular genre, although it is probably safe to say that the majority of their fans come from within the Goth scene.

The majority of these bands (with the exception of Johnny Hollow, who do not seem to be very well known) are happy to appear in 'Goth-only' magazines such as Orkus and Gothic Beauty, and play at major Goth events.


Stefanie said...

I love the fact that all 4 of the original Goth bands are from jolly old England :D It shows that the UK is the true home of Goth :)

Anonymous said...

Why is Emilie Autumn always so bashed? She was so un exepted that know she is saying that her stuff is more like glam rock... such assholes with her

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