Saturday, 26 March 2011

Goth bands and the mainstream

This is not what I was intending to post today at all; it's another re-post from the old site, but frankly, I'm so tired I can't think straight and have just spent ten minutes staring at a blank screen before giving up and finding something to copy and paste.

EDIT: Can you believe it? I posted two versions of this same post, one in March and one in November! I have deleted the November post as it had no comments. Sorry about that!

With Goth’s natural aversion to most things that the mainstream loves, it’s no wonder the subculture thrives firmly underground. But, every now and again, little things from the Gothic world find their way to the surface…

Source: Tumblr
The first Goth band to really explode into the mainstream was The Cure - some Goths, in fact, are adamant that they ‘sold out’, whilst some argue that it’s not the band’s fault that they proved to be popular - although Robert Smith did make an active choice to begin releasing 'throwaway' cheerful pop tunes such as Let's Go To Bed and The Lovecats (is there a better song to sing in the shower?) to break away from the band's moody, gloomy image.

Due to the cheeky, irreverent cheerfulness in these and many of The Cure's later songs, many people nowadays do not connect the upbeat, pop-based sounds of the band's later career with the Goth subculture. Unfortunately, they’re much more likely to cite bands such as Evanescence or Cradle of Filth.

Of course, back in the 80s, it was fairly commonplace to see the new post-punk bands (you know these names by now - Bauhaus, Joy Division, Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Cure) and other similarly Goth-beloved musicians (Adam and the Ants, David Bowie) on Top of the Pops in all their glory. All of the ‘Big Four’ (the first four Goth bands) were at one time media darlings, but after a while, all except The Cure themselves seemingly retreated out of the spotlight and into the shadows as much as they could.

Bands that are wrongly considered Goth are a whole different matter. Examples are Evanescence, Cradle of Filth, Marilyn Manson, Type O Negative, HIM, Within Temptation, Lacuna Coil, Linkin Park, Slipknot, Korn… and let’s just say I could go on. And on. And on. (I love all of the above bands, by the way. But, Goth? Nooo...)

Whilst these bands are not necessarily 'mainstream' and in fact are enjoyed by many in the Goth scene, they are a world apart from the obscure bands associated with the Goth scene proper - how many times have you named your favourite Goth band only to receive "Huh?" or "Never heard of them..." as a response?

Big-name metal, rock and alternative bands like those named above are generally cited by the mainstream as examples of Gothdom, whereas 'real' Goth music rarely if ever finds its way onto MTV, mainstream radio, and into the public eye. 'Goth rock' is not really recognised as a genre; and I would suspect that if you were to ask Average Joe to name a Goth rock band, they'd say "Marilyn Manson".

In this day and age it is rare for a Goth band to make the mainstream, although some contemporary acts such as Zola Jesus and Fever Ray seem to be successfully genre-crossing and drawing attention from Goths and the mainstream media alike. (Speaking of Zola Jesus, here's a free download for you - my favourite Zola song, Devil Take You.)
I also have a sneaking suspicion that even when alternative and Goth bands prove popular, they do not recieve the airplay and prestige that a mainstream act would enjoy. As an example, The Cruxshadows have beaten Beyonce to the top of America's Billboard Dance Charts and previously had two singles in the top ten (at #1 and #3 respectively) at the same time. The Cruxshadows were also the first Goth band ever to play at a festival in China. Yet a few months ago, I met a woman from CXS's native state of Florida, and she had never even heard the band's name.

The Goth world seems to be in two minds about this. On the one hand, it would be nice for our music to get the recognition we feel it deserves - after all, following the success of shows such as The X Factor and acts such as Girls Aloud, whose stars neither write their own songs or music or play their own instruments, musicians with real talent are slowly fading into the background - not least because then perhaps we would stop being mislabelled ‘emos’ and ‘Mansonites’, but on the other hand part of the allure of alternative culture is that it is not understood by or largely involved with the mainstream. The less the mainstream understands us, the less likely it is to be able to consume our scene, turning it into nothing more than a consumer market - as has increasingly happened to other alternative scenes such as punk.
In places with a thriving Goth scene, however, for example Camden, London, people are more likely to recognise Goth bands or music. And some countries have it better than others. Germany is host to several of the largest Goth festivals in the world, and the Industrial and cybergoth scenes in particular are thriving. Japan may only have a small Goth scene, but loosely related scenes with a similar striking, decadent appearance such as Gothic Lolita and Visual Kei are widely known, with bands such as Moi Dix Mois gaining worldwide fame. And in England in the 1980s (back when Goth or punk was the thing to be), especially in London, you’d hardly be able to take a step without hearing someone mentioning Siouxsie Sioux, Joy Division, Bauhaus or The Cure (yes, them again).

Nowadays, noise pop and lo-fi bands (like Zola Jesus and Fever Ray) are being hailed by the media as 'the second coming of Goth'... so the journalists are getting it right for once (I will never forget reading a Kerrang! article describing Manson as 'the King of Goth'... aren't music journalists meant to know their stuff?).

Who knows, perhaps these new Gothy media darlings signify that our time is coming again. But if it does, will we reach out for the spotlight, or will we retreat deeper into the shadows?


Julietslace said...

;) ooh you used my Tumblr. LOL I never forgot that Kerrang quote :| literally never.

Lucy Diamond said...

While I was studying music last year I was really shocked to find that most people along side me actually knew what real goth music sounded like. Sure they didn't enjoy it, but they KNEW it wasn't "Manson" or such.

Unlacing the Victorians said...

I think this post is good. I just recently gae a friend a sampling of "Goth music," which included Voltaire and Emilie Autumn. Then I put a bigger sampling of more mainstream bands that I considered to having a goth aesthetic to an extent without actually being goth- Within Temptation and HIM were among those. And Marilyn Manson. w00t! to me being close! :)

Anonymous said...

The Cure - I haven't heard that name for a long time!


amy said...

how are you ? hope you dont mind me asking this but how come your not talking to rosie any more

ultimategothguide said...

@ Amy - I don't discuss my personal life on my public blog. Sorry.

Cherry Divine said...


Murdo Murdo said...

Ooh, Zola Jesus and Fever Ray - good choices! Did you hear that Karin's other act (The Knife) are releasing a new album this year?

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