Follow by Email

Thursday, July 13, 2017


What exactly is a goth? It is defined as a subculture of youth that wear black clothing, have pale skin, and affect a kind of ethos found in Victorian horror (when Gothic literature abounded). There was (is?) a genre of rock called Goth, with the most recognizable names Siouxsie and the Banshees, Bauhaus, The Cure, and Joy Division. This all according to Wikipedia.

The Mountain Goats, one of the most interesting bands recording today, have created an album devoted to Goths, with that as a title. It is not an album of Goth Rock, though, Their last album was a themed record all about professional wrestling. This time the theme is kids from the '80s, dressed in dark eyeliner, imagining they were vampires, listening to Sisters of Mercy.

I am not nor never have been a Goth, but I understand it. I just thought the whole dress-up thing was silly. But this is a good record, with songs by John Darnielle, who is also a novelist and writes great lyrics. But may I suggest that in the future the band print their lyrics in a font that can be read, so I don't have to go to the Internet to get them?

Some of the songs need annotation for someone like me. For instance, a song called "Andrew Eldritch Is Moving Back to Leeds" is helped enormously by knowing who Andrew Eldritch is (I did not, until Googling--he was the singer for Sisters of Mercy). Thankfully I have heard of Gene Loves Jezebel, which is the subject of the last and best song, "Abandoned Flesh":

"Robert Smith is secure at his villa in France
Any child knows how to do the spiderweb dance
Siouxsie has enough hits to keep the bills paid
Every New Year's in Los Angeles, you can still see Richard Blade
But the world forgot about Gene Loves Jezebel"

It's a song about how a band can hit some heights and then, through internecine squabbling and other factors break up and be completely forgotten (although they are still together today). This attitude is reflected in another song about musical principles, in "Shelved":

"Maybe dad is right
I'm still young
And I can write C++ just as good as anyone
I know this guy at Lucasarts
He says they're looking for hands
In fifteen years I'll be throwing back beers
With my feet in the sand"

Another song, "Wear Black," of course refers to the color of a Goth's choice:

Wear black on your forgotten red heart
Wear black in the present tense
Wear black when you come around
Wear black in your absence
Wear black high as a kite (wear black)
Wear black dead sober (wear black)
Wear black when the struggle starts (wear black)
Wear black when it's over (wear black)

There's a certain droll humor to the record, as evidenced by a lyric in "The Grey King and Silver Flame Attunement," in which Darnielle sings, "I'm hardcore, but I'm not that hardcore," perhaps referring to extremes like teeth filing or having artificial horns installed in one's head. And in "Unicorn Tolerance" (a great title) we get lyrics that may contain a wink:

"Dig through the graveyard
Rub the bones against my face
It gets real nice around the graveyard
Once you've acquired the taste"

Musically, as I said, this is not a Goth record. It's more like California pop. Pointedly, there is no guitars (as listed on the liner notes) along with no "pitch correction."

I imagine this album will strike chords with those who went through a Goth phase, and have embarrassing pictures of themselves going to the prom in a black dress and fingernail polish, or had The Cure posters on their wall. As stated, this is not the case for me, but I still enjoyed the hooks of the music and the cleverness of the lyrics. And who is Richard Blade?

No comments:

Post a Comment