I have a confession to make: I was a teenage Goth. Half spider,half bad poet,all confused angst, I huddled with my foul-weather friends smoking joints,drinking red wine and singing Cure songs,as the mascara and hair spray trickled down our pallid faces in the rain in our small unlovely town. It was as bad as it got, but perversely, those gloomy chords of doom made life worth living.
Goth was sexy. It was also absurd, OTT, (melo)dramatic and playful. The worst excesses could be found in Christian Death, Gene Loves Jezebel and The Mission, all of whom haven’t aged well (first Mish album is okay, though) and the best in Bauhaus, The Cure,anything on 4AD, Siouxsie and The Banshees and The Cramps (although the latter could also be defined as punk/rockabilly).
Siouxsie and Budgie and Katharine Blake
Stylistically,the most striking Goths are akin to the unholy progeny of Lord Byron, Elsa Lanchester and a crow. I was always drawn to the way The Damned,Liz Fraser,The Slits and Babes in Toyland dressed and often wore torn Victorian dresses, leggings, ribbons and DMs. Think Helena Bonham-Carter, but more neurotic and working-class.
Its appeal wavered as the post-punk originators aged and ran out of steam, but the 90s saw a new reaction to dance music culture, with bands like Miranda Sex Garden, Cranes and Daisy Chainsaw all fulfilling their inner Ophelias. Nine Inch Nails, Ministry and Marilyn Manson even fused a Goth aesthetic with industrial, glam and metal, thus proving there wasn’t just one strand of music, and that it could mutate from ethereal to modernist and steam-punk.
Emo, the more introverted cousin, dominated the millennium, a more commercial, poppy form of the genre,headed up by bands with names like Monkeys Wank in Enclosed Spaces and Trivial (or something like that) but more recently, bands like Honeyblood, Skating Polly,Wolf Alice and The Horrors,alongside solo pale outsiders like Anohni and Patrick Wolf definitely dip a pointy winkle-picker into the murky sea of Goth. And Nick Cave has recently made some of his most incredible work with The Skeleton Tree, as musically and lyrically complex,chilling and challenging as ever. You just can’t keep a good Goth down. Happy Hallowe’en, all. (Spoilt Victorian Child)