Sunday, 23 October 2011

How to spot a 'real' Goth v.2, part 2

Continuing with my mission to clarify and explain the points I made in my early post 'How to spot a Real Goth', here's part two. (You can catch part one, complete with an explanation of why I am dissecting the old post, over here.)

A 'real' Goth listens to a variety of music, including original, traditional or 'proper' Goth music.

[And before we begin, Kitty Lovett, even you have admitted that, to be precise, you don't like 'MOST' Goth music, which therefore implies that you do like SOME. So don't argue. :-P]

There is much debate, as we all know, about whether the Goth subculture as we know it today stemmed primarily from music, fashion, art and culture, or what is vaguely referred to as the Goth worldview, or, less accurately, 'mindset'. My personal view is that Goth wouldn't be the same delightfully creepy beast that we all adore were it to be missing any of these factors.

Source: Tumblr
Yes, I do believe that had post-punk and Goth rock never come into existence, the Goth scene would still exist in some form or another. Commentors here often point out that versions of what we now call 'Goth' have actually existed for centuries, giving as examples the Romantic Period, the Lost Generation of the 1920s, and the penny dreadfuls, seances, and other darker pasttimes that were popular in the Victorian era, to name but a few.

But the music of today's Goth scene is what gives members of the subculture as we know it today tangible common ground. Not all Goths dress in black, not all Goths love Tim Burton or have an interest in the paranormal, not all Goths want to picnic in cemeteries - but I'll go out on a limb here and say that all Goths do enjoy and seek out 'dark' music in one form or another.

And I'm not just talking about Goth rock either. As readers have pointed out and as my ongoing comprehensive guide to Goth-friendly music aims to illustrate, there is more to Goth music nowadays than a single genre. There are purists who insist that post-punk is the One True Form of Goth music, but that would be like saying that this current incarnation of 'Goth' is the only outlet there has ever been for those who love and appreciate darker things, which as the examples above hopefully show is not quite true.

The fact is that Goth music has expanded from its roots in punk rock to fill hundreds of different definitions and incapsulate hundreds of different styles, and I'd bet my favourite boots that, whether consciously or unconsciously, all Goths like or would like at least one song from at least one band from one of these hundreds of different genres and sub-genres and sub-sub-genres (yes, Kitty, including classical music and opera).

I am beginning to formulate the theory that the difference, music-wise, between a 'real Goth' and a poseur (I hate using that term o.O) is that the 'real Goth' seeks out and listens to music that they genuinely, truly enjoy, including some Goth or 'dark' music but probably also including loads of other genres and styles.

Whereas the 'poseur' deliberately seeks out bands that the media has labelled 'Goth' (whether rightly or wrongly) or whose aesthetics have a Goth-inspired bent (e.g. Evanescence, Cradle of Filth, Slipknot, Marilyn Manson), because they think it makes them Goth or because it makes them more 'dark'. Additionally, the poseur rejects other kinds of music (for example, would refuse to listen to a pop band, even if secretly they really liked their music) because it's NOT GOTH.

Or, to put it more simply, a poseur listens to Marilyn Manson because he's SO GOTH, whereas a 'real' Goth might listen to Marilyn Manson because they like his music. Doing something because you like it as opposed to doing it to fit an 'image'. The 'real' Goth knows that they are still Goth if they like and listen to anything that isn't 100% dark and creepy, yes, even Britney Spears. And they like what they like because they like it, not because society or the media says 'you MUST listen to this if you're a spooky kid'.

Also, there is no pre-approved list of Goth bands that you HAVE to listen to to be considered part of the scene. It's OK to not like Bauhaus or Siouxsie or The Cure or any other band! Out of hundreds and hundreds of sub-genres there's no reason for every single Goth to have exactly the same bands on their playlist; that would kind of eradicate the whole focus on individuality and self-expression that pervades the scene. Which is why, when I or anyone else says 'proper' Goth music, it's not 'to be a non-conformist you must listen to exactly the same music we do', it's just differentiating between dark music that is 'underground' and the kind of music that is labelled 'Goth' by the media.

Most poseurs would probably enjoy at least one example of 'proper' Goth music, which is proven by the amount of mallgoths who grow up and grow into the 'real' Goth scene. But as yet they are not looking beyond media typecasting of what is and isn't Goth, and are also more focused on trying to be ultra-spooky than on being themselves.


Desdemona said...

I wouldn't know the difference between rock & metal even if my life depended on it. Which is exactly why I rarely try to refer to myself as goth, because it's too music culture centered.
Well at least according to the "true goths". You can't go on a goth forum without finding at least one topic tittled "what is goth", and it usually swings into the direction of the music subculture only.

I have dark, romantic and fantasy related interests, which show in my choice of music, movies and clothing. It just so happens that goth fashion has a lot of those features in it.
If I had to say that I'm goth based on the music culture...then no. Even though my playlist does include music accepted as goth. But knowing the genres and being a fan of such and such group is just not something I occupy my time with.
If goth was purely a fashion culture, like lolita, or a culture sprung from having general darker interests, then sure you could say I'm goth.

I'm glad to say I never went through a must-do-this-and-this-to-be-GAWTH phase. Except maybe I was a bit heavy on the eyeliner in the beginning.

Nightwind said...

Excellent post Amy! I think you summed up the situation extraordinarily well.

Natasha said...

It's always so confusing, who's Goth and who isn't. I find it silly. You always have intelligent explanations/arguments/word I can't think of about this topic.. I've always been weird and spooky and loved many things that could be 'Goth' but I've been told many times I can't be by other goths. I take great comfort in your wisdom!

Kitty Lovett; The Unadulterated Cat said...


Other than this - how the bloody hell do you define "goff mewsic" anyway? What makes one band "goth" but one, very similar band with a massive goth following, "not goth"?

Xanthy and I were talking about it the other day, and our answer was "we don't fucking know man". Either that, or there's some secret Goth Council, with a representitive from every branch of Goth, that gets together once a month - on the new moon - to decide what is Goth, what is Goth-acceptable and what is not. :P, that sounds awesome. Let's go with that.

Marcus Coetzee said...

Really enjoying your blog from here in Cape Town. Have you considered an article about goths who don't look like goths. The spirit of the goth versus fashion of the goth. For example, what about the goth who has a high profile job with a charity and needs to appear 'conventional' or the goth who goes to the beach in summer and wears shorts and sandles because it gets so hot here? What distinguishes a goth beyond music and fashion? I'm curious to hear your view.

~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~ said...

wow =D this article is genius!

^^ u summarize what in our mind so well, i am so impress

Flora-Fairy said...

As usual Ms Amy, you're posts are DIVINE and a pleasure to read :-)
I do have a question for you though. I see you seem to be quite 'educated' when it comes to the Goth subculture so I give you this:
I have been looming in the shadows for a while know, after running back inside the closest and locking the door after my last attempt at Goth *cringes at memories* so I decided to educate myself so that when I am brave enough to come back out (it is opened a crack at the moment xD) that I will not look like an idiot. I have found that on many fourms, blogs, etc people have said/debated that one of the essientials to be a 'real Goth' you need to listen to some Goth music. Now I have one tiny problem, I'm not a big fan of music, there are a few bands here and there that I like but I never seem to get fully into it. Does this make me a poseur or a 'non-Goth'? I hope you read thinks, and many thanks for educating me on the Goth subculture, you have been extremely helpful :D x

Mad Vampire Poet said...

Hey, Amy your blog is awesome! I've actually been reading this blog for a long time now, but this is the first time I've commented. Yeah, I know, weird. I don't listen to much goth music, really only Siouxsie and the Banshees and Emilie Autumn. I mostly like metal e.g: Nightwish, Evanescence, Within Temptation, Linkin Park, Delain. Am I still goth? Oh, and can you read and review some of my fanfics, please? They're on, and the pen name is Mad Vampire Poet. You don't have to of course, I'm just obsessed with them. You're probably busy enough with this blog.

DyingRose69 said...


I want to give you the Gothic Blog Award! (:

If you accept it, write a post about it, select 3 Goth bloggers for the Award(inform them in komment later), and upload the award's picture(found it on the link).

Darkness Kitty said...

I don't agree in the importance of music. I started for my love to classic terror movies, and I barely have listened more than five goth songs in my life (I prefer industrial :P) I think the music stimulated the goth, but it had to exist before. Besides, brands has changed goth clothing since it appeared, and now is a mixture between classic goth and heavy/visual kei/punk. That mixture changes de perception of newcomers and they create their own goth lifestyle, which can be very different between them, but equally valid (based on music, terror genre, post apocalyptic movies/games, dark baroque, etc...)

And about the word "poseur" I think is not bad to be one, to dress like goth one day every month is ok if you like the clothing. What I hate is people who dress it for profit (to unfuse fear, to have friends, etc..)

Just my opinion. BTW I love your blog! :)

Under_The_Stairs said...

As always,you make wonderfully valid points.

ultimategothguide said...

@ Desdemona - precisely my point; I think that liking some or any Goth music should be enough to define a person as a 'real Goth' because there is more to the subculture than music. It's sad that a lot of people feel they aren't or can't be 'real Goths' because they prefer other music genres to Goth music.

Kitty - funnily enough I did a post the other day about how on earth you are supposed to define what is or isn't Goth musically (I chalked it up to inspiration and musical roots, e.g. Marilyn Manson's roots are in metal and shock rock whereas The Birthday Massacre's are in synthpop and Industrial which are 'closer' to Goth music).

If there is a Goth council, I wants in.

Marcus - thanks for the post idea! Will do. :-)

Flora-Fairy - this is a really interesting question; I might be slightly biased though as before I got into the music I like now (predominantly darkwave, electronic and Industrial, just FYI) I didn't seem to 'get' music and I thought there must be something wrong with me! Just turned out I hadn't found a genre that clicked with me yet, and I'm wondering if maybe it's the same for you?

But to be honest, if music isn't a big deal for everyone then it just isn't, if you're not a huge music fan I don't feel it should shut you out of the subculture. It's not the same as 'I want to be a Goth but don't like any Goth-related or dark music', it's 'I'm not hugely fond of music in general', which I personally don't think makes you a poseur at all.

Also in my personal view, I'd be willing to bet that either now or in the future one or two of the handful of bands you like (or even a single song) would be considered either Goth or Goth-friendly, because people who are attracted to the scene are unlikely to completely dislike every single related genre of music. (Sorry about this really long answer!)

Mad Vampire Poet - I don't think that how Goth you are can be defined just by the number of Goth bands you listen to, so yes I'd say you're a 'real Goth'. I'd be happy to check out your fanfic sometime; probably later this week if I get a minute.

DyingRose69 - aw, thanks! I accept and will post probably tomorrow. ^^

Carrie said...

Great article, I am impressed.

I would throw in my opinion that whether or not you *enjoy* or actively listen to various founding goth bands (Bauhaus, etc). you should at least have *heard* of them or *attempted* to listen to a couple of their songs before joining the subculture by referring to yourself as Goth. Not everybody is going to enjoy listening to Siouxsie or The Cure.. but should understand where goth music came from and what it's meant to others in the scene.

Lady Ruby said...

I agree with what Marcus Coetzee said... I (hailing from Vancouver- remember me?) would love to see something like that. I'd also like to see something about goths of all shapes and sizes being accepted in that same blog- skinnie minnies and bigger goths like myself. One point I want to put out there is that fashion is a pain in the neck for us curvacious goths. Hence the DIY posts.. I can't remember if you did a blog like that. If you have, a refresher would be cool.

Anonymous said...

This reminds me of another article(I think it was in Gothic charm school) that with most 'traditional' older Goth bands they wouldn't classify themselves as goth

InfiltratorN7 said...

Marilyn Manson's has also been influenced by the likes of David Bowie and Gary Numan. You can see this especially in the Mechanical Animals album.

I feel the same as Carrie. I'd expect someone who is goth to know of the existence of the earlier bands like Bauhaus, Siouxsie and the Banshees etc. Know that they were what kicked it all off and maybe have checked them out. Whether they like it or not is up to them. Awareness isn't the same thing as liking. While I expect awareness I don't necessarily expect enjoyment.

InfiltratorN7 said...

As well as shock rock stars like Alice Cooper, Marilyn Manson has also been influenced by the likes of David Bowie and Gary Numan. You can see this especially in the Mechanical Animals album.

I feel the same as Carrie. I'd expect someone who is goth to know of the existence of the earlier bands like Bauhaus, Siouxsie and the Banshees etc. Know that they were what kicked it all off and maybe have checked them out. Whether they like it or not is up to them. Awareness isn't the same thing as liking. While I expect awareness I don't necessarily expect enjoyment. That’s down to individual choice. Never understood that ‘one true goth music’ thing either. Goth has evolved and branched out a lot since the 80s. I think Amy raises an interesting point regarding what Goths mean when they refer to ‘proper goth music’ – that it’s just a term to differentiate goth music from rock/metal pushed by the mainstream media as ‘being ubergawffic’ because they wear a bit of black, rather then it being a term of snobbish ubergothness (e.g. I’m more goth than you). A lot of this seems to come out in forum discussions, I guess as people grow tired of MTV (among others) labelling bands like HIM and Evanescence as the epitome of modern goth while ignoring all the great new goth bands that are out there. If it's not this then you get the likesof NME positioning goth music firmly in the 80s and not beyond.

CAliChica said...

i know a girl who bought herself a black belt with studs , started wearing black T's and now smugging *winces* black make up on and thinks shes all that because she bought an Avenge Sevenfold album
mall goth?

Jazhara7 said...

When someone asks what genre of music I listen to, I say "If I like a song, I listen to it.". I also add some bands I like, though this has mostly been in the recent years, as in the past, I didn't really listen to anything specific.

Among my favourite bands are Nightwish, Katzenjammer, JBO, Indica, Voltaire, The Cranberries, and Blind Guardian. But I also like to listen to Monty Python songs, which don't really fit into a genre except "It's Monty Python".

Nightwish I guess you can call Gothic or Metal.

Katzenjammer I am not really sure (It's a swedish band that is a story of their own. Look them up. I particularly like "Demon Kitty Rag", "Hey Ho On the Devils Back", and "Mother Superior").

JBO is Metal and also simply JBO (more about them in a minute).

Indica is a Finnish band, which I guess can be considered mainstream and alternative at the same time. It is difficult to say with Finnish bands, as Finland is very supportive of their musically creative populace. Off the top off my head I can name five Finnish, internationally known bands: Indica, Nightwish, Lordi, Ensiferum, and Sunrise Avenue. And if you want, Loituma, though they mostly got attention for their "Ievan Polka" (also known as the "Leek Spin Song" on the Web), I guess.

Voltaire can be gothy, but also all the way geeky (a whole album with songs about Star Trek. Woo!).

The Cranberries are Irish, and I love the way their singer sings, and their topics (Look up "Zombie" on YouTube and then Wikipedia, and you will know what I mean.)

Blind Guardian is a German Metal band. They make awesome songs, with my favourite album being "Nightfall in Middle Earth", which is obviously based on the "Lord of the Rings" books. But they also make other things, like one of their cover albums, which covers songs like "Mr. Sandman" and "Surfin' USA". Not very metal, but hey, it's fun!

Now, for details on JBO. JBO is a German metal band. Their name stands for "James Blast Orchestra", but is usually referred to as the shortened form, and when written out it is written as "James *CENSORED* Orchestra", due to legal complaints of possible mix ups with James Last. :P

It was intended as a Joke for one single performance, but when they continued, they didn't change it.

Anyway, they make very funny music. Their genre is officially "Fun Metal". They have songs like "Ich hab den Weichspüler vergessen" (I forgot the Fabric Softener), which uses several terms and slogans from German television ads, and "Walk with an Erection" (a parody on "Walk like an Egyptian") and my favourite: "Verteidiger des Blödsinns" (Protectors of Nonsense), which has such lovely lyrics as "Protectors of Nonsense, Warriors in Black, Pink and Gold!". Now Imagine a horde of Metallers, complete in intimidating Metal Gear and things joining in to sing this. It is wonderful. They always have an audience, it is just so much fun, and yes, they have been at Wacken Open Air, the biggest Metal Festival around here, if not even in the world. They're jumping around and singing lyrics that are more than silly...and later before leaving for home, they burn down their own tents because they were cheap ass 20 Euro tents that only last a weekend and are not worth taking home.

So yeah, much variety even in the genre. :)

Brattybat said...

I'm confused sometimes. I LOVE sousxie and the banchees, evanesense, and others. I have always been into the goth scene since I was like 9 years old. I was obsessed with it. And it felt so natural to me. So I tried it out. I LOVED IT SO MUCH. But my dad met a me girlfriend and got engaged. She called me a freak and threw out all of my goth clothes. She bought me new brighter clothes from Macy's and called It good. I hated it. I'm 15 and I don't really Have any goth clothes anymore. Am I still goth?

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