Thursday, 13 January 2011

A Comprehensive Guide to Dark and Goth-Friendly Music, Part 1: Begin at the Beginning

I have just added some new bands to the Great Big List (more than ten!). I've lost count, but I can safely say that it's well over 1,000 bands long... and people say that Goths all listen to the same music.

On which note, I'd like to begin a new recurring topic, similar to my frequent posts on styles of Goth fashion, but this time regarding music - and, more specifically, your handy-dandy Comprehensive Guide to Dark and Goth-Friendly Music. A quick glance at the huge lists of bands playing each year at the Wave Gotik Treffen would give the (correct) impression that the Goth and dark music scene is a huge and many-faceted scene, but certainly not all of those bands are playing Goth rock. Not all of them play deathrock, post-punk, or any of the bleepy, bouncy subgenres associated with cyber, either.

As well as an enormous and thriving music scene of its own, combining the genres mentioned above (and more!), Goth as a music subculture is something of a magpie, borrowing music and bands from other subcultures and genres such as punk, Industrial, metal, classical, indie; even grunge and country. Yes, country (more on this soon if you don't believe me). A quick scan through the CD reviews in a recent issue of Gothic Beauty Magazine shows bands classified as grunge, shoegaze, dark rock and more, in addition to the hundreds of Goth bands that emerge in the scene every year. Which is why there is such a diverse mix of bands playing at Goth festivals all over the world.

Why does a music-based subculture that prides itself so strongly on its particular genre of music (that's Goth rock and its various subsets, in case you've gotten a little lost amongst my blatherings) feel the need to associate itself with so many dozens of other styles? Because a subculture is made up of PEOPLE, and people don't generally want to confine themselves to listening to a single genre of music; therefore whilst the definition of Goth music remains the same, Goths are often also interested in all these other genres and more. Making sense?

Because Goths themselves are interested in and enjoy listening to all those dozens of genres (which, by the way, tend to be at least a little dark, hence 'dark and Goth-friendly music'), magazines, festivals, DJs and clubs have picked up on this and tend to review and play a mix of different Goth-friendly styles in addition to what we consider 'Goth'. To sum up, whilst listening to rock or metal doesn't make you Goth, it doesn't make you less Goth either, and you'd be far from the only one.

Source: YouTube
Without further ado, let's begin at the beginning and keep it traditional for part one of this new topic; with Goth rock, the official and unofficial backbone of Goth culture, and its closest relatives:

Goth rock
Also referred to as Gothic rock or just 'Goth', Goth rock emerged from punk rock and post-punk, and combines dark, keyboard and guitar-based music with introspective, moody lyrics. Often a drum machine is used instead of live drums. Beats are described as "hypnotically dirge-like or tribal" and the vocal style often has a deep, cavernous or droning sound.

Goth rock bands include: The Sisters of Mercy, Virgin Prunes, Sex Gang Children, Fields of the Nephilim, The Mission (aka The Mission UK), Rosetta Stone, Skeletal Family, The March Violets, The Faces of Sarah, Children on Stun.

Post-punk, aka positive punk, was a music genre that developed from the punk scene in the late 1970s and led to the evolution of Goth rock. Many early post-punk bands are also referred to as 'Gothic rock'. Post-punk is more complex and experimental than traditional punk music, incorporating the use of synthesizers and even dub influences.

In the early 2000s there was something of a post-punk revival, leading to a second wave of post-punk bands emerging, but these have never been as popular within the Goth subculture as the original post-punk bands as they did not share all of the sounds or aesthetics common to the original post-punk bands despite the label awarded them by the media. However some of them have achieved relative subcultural success, particularly Christ vs. Warhol (who played WGT 2010), Editors (who played M'Era Luna 2010), Interpol, Placebo and She Wants Revenge.

Original post-punk bands include: Siouxsie and the Banshees, Joy Division, New Model Army, The Chameleons, Echo and the Bunnymen, Killing Joke, The Cure, Bauhaus, The Jesus and Mary Chain, The Birthday Party.

Second wave post-punk bands include: Editors, Christ vs. Warhol, She Wants Revenge, Interpol, Doll Factory, I Love You But I've Chosen Darkness, Placebo, We Are Scientists, The Temper Trap and Art Brut.

The Batcave was the original Goth nightclub in London, England. The term Batcaver is now used to describe fans of early Goth music, and the word 'Batcave' now used to refer to Goth music with a prominent post-punk or deathrock sound, like the bands who were regulars at the Batcave in the 80s.

Batcave bands include: Specimen, Alien Sex Fiend, Sexbeat, The Venomettes, Ausgang, Voodoo Church, Naughty Zombies, Super Heroines, Novocaine Mausoleum, Cinema Strange.

New wave
New wave emerged in the 70s alongside punk, and soon was considered a genre in its own right as it incorporated elements of electronic, experimental, disco and even 60s pop as well as the traditional punk ethos. It often involved 'choppy' guitars, an emphasis on keyboards, and 'geeky, suburban'-sounding vocals, according to music journalists of the era.

New wave bands include: New Order, The B-52s, Altered Images, Depeche Mode, Lene Lovich, early Gary Numan, Oingo Boingo, Sigue Sigue Sputnik, The Neon Judgement, Orchestral Manouevres in the Dark.

Darkwave took the basic principles from post-punk and new wave and added the introspective, gloomy lyrics of Goth rock. Originally, fans of this music were called 'darkwavers', but the similarities with Goth meant that the two genres soon became aligned. Darkwave continued into the 90s as an underground movement amongst German bands, and several US bands combined elements of other genres such as trip-hop and electronic dance to create a more modern darkwave sound.

Darkwave bands include: Collide, The Cruxshadows, The Cassandra Complex, Diary of Dreams, Love Spirals Downwards, Switchblade Symphony, Wolfsheim, Deine Lakaien, The Frozen Autumn and Ataraxia.


Anonymous said...

Although, quite honestly post punk and deathrock aren't genres since most bands included in those terms have varied sounds. They're more so categories for music played within a certain period, time, and (in the case of deathrock) region.

Deathrock was the label Rozz Williams gave his music upon someone asking what kind of music was Christian Death. Yet, there's not unifing sound in the bands we now call Deathrock (or Post Punk for that matter which simply means "after punk").

To me, what defines Goth is not a specific sound as found with other genres but is defined by the aesthetic and people who like it. Which is why Skinny Puppy and Dead Can Dance are considered Goth bands. Despite that neither of them sound anything like Bauhaus nor having any roots nor influences musically tied to the orignal bands or the original scene.

Even The Cure and the Sister of Mercy really had no direct interaction with the Goth scene (aside from Goths liking it, of course). Yet, their influence on Goth is undeniable.

Mark Evans said...

You should have mentioned the killers in the post punk revival part.. they are not post punk now but their first album Hot Fuss drew heavily from the 80's besides they are more post punk than the temper trap.

Princesssookeh said...

I agree with Mark about Hot Fuzz. It's their only album I own, as I haven't liked them since(the band, not the album).

Carmel said...

You should try listening to Dead Can Dance, I'm not sure what category they would come under, but I think they're great.

Anonymous said...

Thank goodness I'm not the only goth who enjoys Oingo Boingo immensely! Danny Elfman is a genius!

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