The air as my friends and I queue up outside is foul with burnt cocoa fumes wafting from a neighbouring factory. Being 16, I can barely believe my luck when I’m granted entry. After some deliberation I buy myself a Green Monster – an in-house “cocktail”, served in a pint glass – and relax. The unremarkable Britpop tune comes to an end, and there’s a brief pause while the DJ fumbles with the controls. These characters, you will have gathered, are the Goths.It would be some time before I realised that Spiders wasn’t merely accepting of minors’ custom, but wholly reliant upon it. The music emanating from the dancefloor is some unremarkable Britpop hit or other. I’d seen plenty of goths before – they’re an enduring fixture of suburban life – but until this point I’d never witnessed them in their element. So what follows is an idealised portrait of goth in its infancy. I’ve ignored goth acts who were popular and important to the scene’s development on the grounds that I simply don’t like their music – so no Fields Of The Nephilim, no Mission, no Danielle Dax, etc.
Invariably misfits with low self-esteem, there was undeniable courage in their commitment to the gloomy cause. An appeal to higher forces, the dignifying of small emotions with grand imagery.
Goth is a return to the poetic; the real post-punk romanticism.
Over the course of the four albums that they cut between ’80 and ’83, the musical identity of Bauhaus was stretched in several different directions by its members (sometimes literally: see 1981’s puckish four-part composition ‘1. The message is clear, and undeniable: Joy Division begat goth.
Far more substantial and less theatrical than Bauhaus, Joy Division dealt, as you all know, in those themes of existential dread, unresolved love and mortification that would form the backbone of goth mythology.
The lyrics are correspondingly ur-goth, preoccupied with religion, being and the passage of time. No less important to goth was Joy Division’s music itself: not just Curtis’s disconsolate croon, but the high-necked, melody-carrying basslines of Peter Hook, the chicken-scratch guitar of Bernard Sumner, the funereal, oxygen-deprived drums of Stephen Morris.
And, most of all, the thing that bound these element together and made them sound as they do: Martin Hannett’s chilly, cavernous production, and subtle, painterly use of synthesizers.Like their hero Bowie, Bauhaus understood the importance of fantasy, and how that’s bound up in the visual: from sleeve art to clothing, make-up to stage lighting. The loping intro is particularly inspired, ramping up the suspense to an unbearable level as reverbed ghost train FX shudder in and around Kevin Haskins’ bone-dry drums, David J”s descending bassline striated with Daniel Ash’s malevolent swipes of guitar.Back when they were first trying to get signed, they issued a rather than an audio tape to record companies. When Murphy’s campy, crudely overdubbed vocal arrives some two minutes in, you know you’re dealing with one of the all-time great pop singles. ” , he’s button-holed in the chapel’s carpark by a shock-haired, mascara’d and flower-bearing couple who wish to convey how much Curtis meant to them, how he won’t be forgotten.That’s not dusty nostalgia, that’s fact.” So quoth Morrissey in 1994.The man talks a lot of nonsense (“sub-species”, anyone?Each member of the band takes their turn to emote through their chosen instrument, but they never loose sight of their common narrative, and even the synthesizer freak-out which brings the track to a close sounds pensive and hard-earned.Hell, there’s such poise to the composition and the performance here that Rawlings’ dippy lyrics about laceration of the soul, sin and sacrement actually fly, even today.Danse Society’s engrossing 12-minute epic ‘There Is No Shame In Death’ has all the free-form ambition of prog but none of its fustiness and self-conscious virtuosity.Around Paul Gilmartin’s low-slung drum groove orbit Paul Nash’s scouring guitar, Lyndon Scarfe’s starkly inventive keyboard phrases and Steve Rawlings’ coldly intoned vocals.His smack and speed-addled band, The Birthday Party, drew upon schlocky Stateside pop culture, the hostile landscapes of their native Australia and a jumble of repurposed religious imagery to produce some of goth’s most lurid and unhinged music.‘Release The Bats’ finds them at their most psychotic: a car-smash of ear-splitting, mercilessly trebly guitars, swamp-trawling drums and Cave’s yowling vocal – some distance from the ominous baritone with which he’s now indelibly associated.