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The Thirty Best Goth Records Of All Time
John Doran , April 6th, 2009 07:29

Gentleman of the night Mick Mercer is just about to have a comprehensive tome on the goth genre published - Music To Die For. So who better to introduce this (entirely subjective) top thirty?

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Zombina photo: Nikki Jones

In choosing a Top 30 I have gone back to day one, and forward right up to tonight, as these days you even get indie bands claiming to be goth! This music is now seen as having real dignity and credibility, because it exists for its own enjoyment and is the only genuinely underground movement in the world. No wonder everyone wants in! So, in this chart you get a whole cross-section. If you want more of this, as I write daily online, or to find out what else I have on offer, visit me here: Mick's Myspace.

1. DANSE SOCIETY 'No Shame In Death' (1981 12-inch - Pax PAX 2)
Perhaps the biggest under-achievers in the bigger league (being lumbered with Arista), Danse Society were a magnificently dark commercial band, caught at their most desolate, distant best on this rare record. Atmospheric, stylish and driven, it’s everything Goth should be.

2. ATARAXIA 'Bonthrop' (1998 Orlando CDEP - Prikosnovenie PRIK 021)
My favourite modern band, Ataraxia feature the remarkable vocalist Francesca Nicoli, who can sing in various languages and veer between different styles, as can the band; often sleekly modern with macabre touches, or authentic Renaissance replicants performing in medieval locations. This song is a hypnotic piece which is breathtakingly simple yet ominous and sombre in tone. They have a myspace group here.

3. SEX GANG CHILDREN 'Mauritia Mayer' (1983 7-inch - Clay CLAY27)
The most artistic of the early Goth bands, and utterly unpredictable, the ‘difficult’ Sex Gang sound foxed many, but here they positively romp, with sexy piano in tow – and Andi Sex Gang still makes fantastic records today.

4. BAUHAUS 'Dark Entries' (1980 7-inch - 4AD AD3/BEG37)
I’m sure everyone expects ‘Bela Lugosi’, which is a standard, but this one’s more vibrant and almost splintering under its own desire to be energetic. Words spew out and remind you of how stunning they were live.

5. UK DECAY 'Testament' (1982 12-inch ‘Rising From The Dread’ - CORPUS CHRISTI, CHRIST ITS 1)
Never before was so much owed by so many bands to so few. UK Decay galvanised the developing Goth scene and are rightly regarded as the primal force at the beginning. This comes from their weightiest 12-inch and surges with power. This year they’ve finally got their first CD out, and maybe their only album will be re-released?

6. DANCING DID 'The Haunted Tea Rooms' (1980 7-inch - Fruit & Veg F&V 002)
Included for a laugh really, as there is much about goth that is amusing. “King Charles slept here, or so they say,” Tim Harrison warbles happily. “Tudor tea spoons, take it away . . .” and there is a spoon solo! They had serious dark overtones and lyrics that were half Dickens, half Peake, from a strictly English perspective. Quality all the way through, with a well deserved compilation out soon on Cherry Red. I collect live tapes, so if you have any of them please get in touch and there is a myspace group here.

7. THEATRE OF HATE 'Nero' (1982 12-inch - Burning Rome BRR1931)
Where post-punk headed towards that first goth phase there you would find Theatre Of Hate, bare-boned and roaring nastily, in an inspirational fashion. This is their most piercing song, constructed in a way no other band at the time was capable of.

8. XMAL DEUTSCHLAND 'Schwarz Welt' (1981 7-inch - Zick Zack ZZ31) We are not alone - that’s what we got from this. In America Christian Death were top dogs, and on the continent Xmal did the girl power thing with a single so noisy it puts virtually every record before or since to absolute shame. Later they went more for vocal drone, with keyboard wash and stony, stormy rhythms, but this record is just vicious. I hear they’re reforming, which is exciting news.

9. ALIEN SEX FIEND 'R.I.P.' b/w 'New Christian Music' (1984 12-inch - Anagram 12ANA18)
Kitsch but provocative, with superb lyrics, Alien Sex Fiend flushed themselves out of the Batcave and into your life with a slew of great records in the 80s. I loved this best for the b-side, but any of their storming, ranting pop Goth pre-Techno meltdowns are fun. Well ahead of their time.

10. KABUKI 'I Am A Horse' (1982 7-inch - Kabaret Noir Kab 1)

They became Ausgang after this and kept releasing fantastic records, but I like the sheer joy you can hear in these grooves, with their precociously jumpy rhythmical onslaught and charismatic vocals.

11. BELFEGORE 'All That I Wanted' (1984 12-inch - Elektra ED 5030)
A monster of a record and maybe a decade or so ahead of its time compared to the Electro-Industrial hoo-ha of today. A pile-driving sound with superb vocals, and a shame the band split up so soon after getting a major deal. They should have been huge.

12. FIELDS OF THE NEPHILIM 'Preacher Man' b/w 'Laura' (1987 7-inch - Situation 2 SIT46)
A unique band, and the most creative of the major label goth bands in the 80s, the Neffs don’t get the credit they deserve. A world within a world, with a dense, rich sound and vocals black as ink. This is their most accessible record, with the equally endearing ‘Laura’ on the flip.

13. MISSION 'Wasteland' (1987 7-inch - Mercury MYTH 2)
Very traditional rock, but seriously impressive, this finds The Mish at their most supremely confident and fluid with a beast of a chorus.

14. SPECIMEN 'Beauty Of Poisin' (1983 7-inch - London Batcave LON40)
Although mainly known for the Batcave and seen as lightweight fluff musically, Specimen had great songs, and this slinky little number punches above its weight. It’s a disgrace they never get the credit they deserve. A new album will be with us shortly!

15. ZERO LE CRECHE 'Last Year’s Wife' (1984 12-inch - Flicknife FLS 029)
Should have been as big as Bauhaus. They too had their own look and their own sound, with unusually short songs and slender tones blended well. Warmly romantic themes; chilled, spectral sounds. The singer left, mystifyingly early.

16. BFG 'Higher Than Heaven' (1987 12-inch - BMG ATT003)
All their records are good, but this indie/goth single has the best melody and ought to be part of a staple goth diet. It’s gorgeously catchy. Now reformed and recording a new album.

17. CREAMING JESUS 'A Forest' (1990 12-inch ‘Bark’ EP - Jungle JUNG53T) Many may wonder where The Cure, Banshees, Joy Division and Damned are in this Goth chart? Well, put simply, bands are defined by their audience [No they aren't, Ed] and none of these bands ever had a majority goth crowd [That's debatable. Did the Mission for instance? Ed]. None of these bands were goth bands [Utter tripe. The first three were. Ed] They may have had similarities, they may have inspired many goths, but that isn’t the same thing. Creaming Jesus, a wonderfully loutish goth band with pre-grunge sensibilities, do a magnificent cover of the Cure enigma, giving it a rougher power but maintaining the same lost feeling. (Andy now fronts the wonderful Giant Paw.)

18. NAUGHTY ZOMBIES 'Posesion Zombie' (2006 7-inch - Blondes Must Die BMD 002)
A frantic, gargling punk take on dark matter. Brilliantly noisy and wholly impudent adventures, because no-one is noisier nowadays than these wild boys and girl. Goth meets Punk meets Horror meets modern noise storms. Spain’s gain is our loss.

19. HISTORY OF GUNS 'Your Obedient Servant' (2004 CDEP ‘Whitby Promo’ – Liquid Len LENCD09FOC)
Imagine this decade spawning a cross between Alien Sex Fiend and Public Image Limited, then leaving it locked in a pub for months on end and emerging as unruly punk. They’re brilliant.

20. ACTION DIRECTE '60 Million Guns' (2006 CD OKTCD11)
Spluttering dark rage. Industrial Punk in many respects, but also like a buzzsaw alien in the clubbier side of Goth. Straight to the heart of the matter, with a rare political axe to grind.

21. ALL ABOUT EVE 'December' (1989 7-inch - Mercury EVEN 11)
Dopey bastards that they were, they drifted from post-punk roots into a hippy folk cul-de-sac for a while, then veered back to bleaker indie surrounds. Through it all are many wonderful melodies and this song nudged the capering ’Our Summer’ out in my affections for this chart. A curiously dry, but sumptuous song.

22. IKON 'Rome' (2005 CD - Equinoxe EQ019)
I could have gone with ‘Psychic Vampire’ but this is doomier. From their epic Destroying The World album. Like an austere modern version of the Mission, but Australian. [Christ almighty! Ed]

23. ZOMBINA & THE SKELETONES 'Counting On Your Suicide' (2005 CDEP Mondo Zombina! Ectoplastic ECT02)
More post-punk/goth crossover here, but with a real understanding of pop, and silkier rhythmical nuances, which they certainly pour into this song. It’s from the Stacis Stasis EP, which went from salsa to New Orleans booze-drenched hellbeat. Check them out here.

24. FAITHFUL DAWN ‘I Am Nothing’ (1998 CD - Darkbeat DBCD003)
Had the UK been more Goth-aware in the 90s this band could have been big, with their melodic Goth bounding over dance soundtracks. Poppy and bruised, they had a fine sound, but audiences were small back then and major labels clueless.

25. SOLEMN NOVENA 'As Darkness Falls' (2007 CD - Own Label) A fine example of a modern band reflecting a desire in Goth to reclaim territory lost to anaemic clubbier fare. Lots of attitude but humour too, with two excellent singers, so picture a cross between the Eves and March Violets and you’re sort of there.

26. RAZORBLADE KISSES 'Ballerina' (2004 CD - Own Label)
Yes, they look like Strawberry Switchblade, but there’s a subtly poetic, decadent sound here, with wilting violin and shuffling vocal waves. Cunning stuff.

27. QUIDAM 'Horrores' (2004 CDEP - Pagan Love Songs Promo)
Tinkling nightmares with mean, slinky guitar and capricious vocals, that’s what. Deathrock came back a couple of years ago when the younger goths found that 80s sounds inspired them more than the 90s and now. Suddenly energy was back and sounds became more varied and turbulent as bands formed without worrying they’d sound amateurish. This Spanish band push you to the edge.

28. THE CULT 'Spiritwalker' (1984 7-inch - Situation 2 SIT 33)
Before they got hairy and complacent [What the fuck?! Ed], The Cult released some striking records and this was one of their best. How can you not love it?

29. RITUAL 'Mind Disease' (1982 7-inch - Red Flame RF712) Raw and bellicose, Ritual had tribal energy with a wounded saxophone, blasting everything in sight. I hope their ‘Songs For Dead Kings’ demo may yet have an album release? That stuff is treasure trove.

30. GLORIA MUNDI 'Glory Of The World/Nothing To Say' (1978 7-inch - RCA PB5118) I often prefer their ‘Fight Back’ single, but Gloria Mundi, in retrospect, were the first goth band (with the same following who turned up at all early proto-goth gigs). Theatrical, dark, harder-hitting than most punk bands, shrill before Sex Gang, doomy before all of them. It sounds weedy at times, almost twee, but it‘s steeped in melodrama and clandestine charm.

More from Mick Mercer all this week. Pre-order his top new book Music To Die For here.

John Doran
Apr 6, 2009 11:49am

There's some interesting stuff for debate here.

I like what I've read of Mick's stuff on the goth genre so far but by saying the Banshees weren't goth and then including The Mission (rock), All About Eve (hippy) and Zombina (totally ace but more of a doo wop or rock & roll band than goth), he weakens his argument somewhat.

I went to see The Banshees, The Cure, The Mission, The Neph, All About Eve, Red Lorry Yellow Lorry, ASF, Cocteau Twins etc in the mid-80s and they all had a similar goth to non-goth ratio. Or at least they did in Liverpool.

Labelling some of these bands non-goth just sounds like sniffy scenesterism to me. My list would certainly have included Warsaw 'Leaders Of Men', Sisters Of Mercy 'Body Electric', Joy Division 'New Dawn Fades', The Birthday Party 'Mutiny In Heaven' but still, vive la difference.

People who want to know more what Mick has to say on the are they/aren't goth debate, should visit us again in a few days time.

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Fred Zeppelin
Apr 6, 2009 12:24pm

I'm not sure that the Banshees are/were goth. They were an original of the species and not followers. Granted, Juju set a template but it was music that was still mutating from punk.

The lack of any Sisters of Mercy in that list is just shocking. 'Body Electric' is a good choice but 'Alice' and especially 'Floorshow' were quintessential goth tracks. And where was 'Chance' or 'Hold Yourself Down' by the Lorries? Or Skeletal Family? Or March Violets?

And Danse Society at Number 1? Gimme a break. Still, at least those ponces Gene Loves Jezebel didn't make the list.

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Brother Grimm
Apr 6, 2009 4:36pm

any song from the b side of 'first and last and always'

great fiend pic

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Fred Zeppelin
Apr 6, 2009 6:59pm

In reply to Brother Grimm:

Ah yes, the mighty Gary Marx. Always my favourite Sister - he threw some of the best shapes by any guitarist ever. Do you know that Spiggy got in touch with him in the mid 90s with a view to co-writing some new material. Marx wrote a loud of music only to have the Dark Lord vanish back to Hamburg almost as quickly and mysteriously as he appeared.

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mick mercer
Apr 7, 2009 12:32am

In reply to John Doran:

Of course it's personally subjective, as any Top 30 would be. That Top 30 was a personal choice, not some attempt to assess what one and all might agree was an all-time Top 30. I specifically chose a mix of old and new.

That said, there are some things which can’t be denied. The Banshees, Cure and Damned were from the Punk scene, may have influenced some Goth bands and many Goths, but they Were Not Goth bands. Joy Division, who also influenced bands, were one of the first Indie bands. The fact people moving out of Punk ran along parallel journeys is understandable, but to mistake them is simply poor detective work.

Goth bands, as assessed from the first recognisable wave of bands, were vibrant, energetic and vigorous rhythmically, which knocks the whey-faced, rickety slow-burn Joy Division straight out of the way.

Few Goth bands had a more Goth-heavy crowd than The Mission, Sisters and Nephilim. I daresay The Mission might have preferred to have a crossover crowd like a band like New Model Army had but that’s just tough.

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mick mercer
Apr 7, 2009 12:36am

In reply to Fred Zeppelin:

The Banshees may be one of the greatest bands the UK produced, and definitely influenced many a band, just as Siouxsie’s image got ripped off by thousands, but they weren’t a Goth band, they were a shimmering dark Punk hybrid, Gawd bless ‘em.

The Sisters didn’t make it because I like others more, but in a Top 100 I think there’d be a few songs. Where are 'Chance' or 'Hold Yourself Down' by the Lorries, Fred? Or Skeletal Family? Or March Violets? Well, in your Top 30 presumably, but not mine, although March Violets would certainly feature in a Top 100.

Danse Society remain one of the great bands as no-one can be cited, after all this time, as having copied them. Like The March Violets they had their own sound, and I loved that sound.

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John Doran
Apr 7, 2009 9:02am

In reply to mick mercer:

Well, we'll have to agree to disagree I think.

I went to see The Mission up in Nottingham about three years ago and there were a lot of young chaps in the audience wearing tracksuits and burberry caps. Does that make them UK garage now?

Also your bizarre notion of categorizing a band due to what they were like at the outset doesn't hold much water. If we stuck to that rule we'd have to consider Supergrass and The Stone Roses and possibly even My Bloody Valentine goth bands.

On the other hand, The Cure and Siouxsie have both been definable as goth bands by their sound, their look, their fanbase, their lyrics and their graphic image AT VARIOUS POINTS of their careers.

It's more difficult to pin down with the Banshees but not only is the period containing '17 Seconds', 'Faith' and 'Pornography' totally goth, it contains what many (this ex-goth included) would consider the most goth album of all time.

compare this to the Sisters, who were only really goth for a series of EPs and one album or The Mission who were never goth and you can see why I think this smacks a bit of insular scenesterism.

That said, I for one, couldn't stomach the thought of a Q style list containing 'Dear Prudence' and 'This Corrosion' and 'Close To Me' so I do think your list is extremely interesting.

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John Doran
Apr 7, 2009 9:02am

We've got an interview with Mick and an extract from his book going up on Wednesday by the way . . .

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mick mercer
Apr 7, 2009 9:29am

In reply to John Doran:

We will have to disagree. I suspect a Mission audience from three years ago simply reflects it was a quiet night in Nottingham that night and those peole had nowhere else to go.

As for the sound of The Banshees and The Cure, the very fact people think it's Goth, think those albums are some of THE best Goth albums, just shows how good those bands were, and how they introduced musical elements which came to be either copied by actual Goth bands, or that they (especially with The Cure's use of keyboards) used certain atmospheres and interesting forms of moody desolation long before others also worked out how they could use it.

I can't quite get my head around these assertations that The Mission were never a Goth band and The Sisters only briefly. What were they, jocular indie rock? Given Eldritch's life in limbo, bemoaning Goth but relying on that audience for his living, maybe the shaven-headed one leads a secret Oi band?

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John Doran
Apr 7, 2009 10:23am

In reply to mick mercer:

Well, I think we can both agree that 'Vision Thing' was cock rock and 'Floodland', although debatable, is pretty much just stadium rock as far as I'm concerned. The big production, the session muso shredding, the big - check me out - I'm on a camel videos etc.

'Reptile House' is about as goth as you can get I'd say but they really changed direction after Fn'Ln'A.

As for The Mish, well, you can have the first album and compilation as goth but since 'Children' onwards they're big room rock that looks to Led Zep, Free, Deep Purple, Sabbath and other frilly shirted hirsute rockers.

We heard from our friends in Ulterior who were supporting the Sisters in Germany recently. One of them, starstruck, inquired of Spiggy 'What should we call you?' Only to get the terrifying reply: "You can call me Sandra if you like. AH HA HA HA HA HAAAA!"

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Fred Zeppelin
Apr 7, 2009 10:40am

In reply to John Doran:

I met Eldo years ago. I was expecting to meet someone with a deep, booming voice with pithy put downs about the state of English cricket. Instead, he sounds a lot like Michael Caine. Not a lot of people know that...

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Ben Graham
Apr 7, 2009 12:50pm

As a teenage fan of the Sisters, Cure, Siouxsie, The Birthday PArty, The Mission and Joy Division, I thought I was a goth. I was certainly abused and jeered at by my peers for being a goth. Imagine my relief, 20 years on, to discover I was actually a dark (actually quite pale) post-punk all along. Thanks, Mick!

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Brother Grimm
Apr 7, 2009 9:09pm

is the reptile house ep goth or psychedelic?

omg valentine

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Brother Grimm
Apr 7, 2009 9:41pm

In reply to Fred Zeppelin:

first and last... gary marx... apart from not taking place on the a side (apart from no time to cry, i know), walk away, the lyrics, the most eldritch 2nd verse since askjef5b439785

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Laurence Davison
Apr 8, 2009 4:58am

I wonder if I might ask how far away Romeo's Distress by Christian Death was?

Incidentally and for what it's worth, from my point of view none of the bands being discussed above should be ruled out on stylistic grounds when March Violets' veritable synth pop sound is allowable. And Snake Dance would definitely make my top 30.

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Richard Awkward
Apr 8, 2009 8:36am

In reply to mick mercer:

Seems like you're floundering in your attempts to justify your quixotic refusal to admit that Pornography and Hyena are goth albums, Mick. Like the man said, "if it looks like a duck and it quacks like a duck..."
What would have made a far more interesting diversion would have been to identify stuff that is goth despite the gasps of horror that would generally follow hard on the heels of such an announcement. "Confide in Me" by Kylie being the first example that springs to mind.

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Todd Cochran
Apr 8, 2009 5:52pm

In reply to mick mercer:

The Cure were punk?! Joy Division were indie?! The guy sung about dying and then killed himself! You could argue that they were the ONLY goth band! By definition all except for The Mission were indie. Generally I agree with the premise that lists are personal and not subject to criticism. But your foundations are fatally flawed. I would prefer you just say you didn't like The Sisters, Joy Division, Siouxsie, March Violets, Red Lorry, Ghost Dance (the better Sisters spinoff IMHO) than try and argue they don't belong on the list. Weak.

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Johnny Nothing
Apr 8, 2009 6:55pm

A case could be made for Kylie and Cave then. But may I say here as elsewhere:

Mick's much earlier Gothic Rock book (Pegasus, 1991) is really very good indeed: Inclusive, insightful, funny and with many excellent pictures. If the new one is half as good it will be worth reading.

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Temp
Nov 29, 2009 2:34am

Hm, 0/30 goth bands here, they are all post-punk.

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Jorge
Dec 2, 2009 9:46pm

In reply to mick mercer:

I honestly think that there are lots of great bands that in some moment have sounded goth (Lacrimosa, Dead Can Dance, This Mortal Coil, Tiamat, Cranes, Gathering, Type 0 Negative, Therion, Theater of Tragedy....what do you tkink about this ones??....

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Opsecalpha
Dec 15, 2010 7:41pm

How can you have a list of Sisters of Mercy impersonators and not include the original. No band in has had a greater influence on the the world of Goth more than they did. The Cure, Siouxsie, Christian Death and the Bauhaus are easily the top 5. I don't care what their label is. They were all Goth in the beginning. It just hadn't fully developed into its own style until they came along and defined it.

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DJ Iconoclast
Feb 11, 2011 2:31pm

I think Corpus Delicti should be in there. Only three studio CD's but excellent material and great live band. Another underated band would have to be Play Dead.

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LODGER
Feb 25, 2011 3:43pm

This list shows how stupid and so called cool rock critics can be, without any objective and relative meaning regarding the specific musical issue....no Sisters and so many hard to listen craps...no Play Dead...wht...no words..

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onceler
Jul 26, 2011 4:46pm

Hmm, well there are people who say 'goth' and mean fake blood, bad special effects, over-wrought emoting, screaming, big pointy hair, metal-like guitars and spiky clothes. Those people are wrong. Then there are people who say 'goth' and mean spare, eerie, brooding, minimalist, emotional, closer to psychedelic than to punk. And those people are right, mostly. There's a case to be made that stuff like Skinny Puppy qualifies as goth as well, but for the most part I think it's a genre that has more to do with delicacy than with force.

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cyrilgrey
Oct 15, 2011 5:55am

In reply to John Doran:

I much prefer your choices-- Body Electric was very important to goth, as was anything Joy Division. I never really liked Mercer's version of "goth". I guess I should be grateful there's no Children On Stun or London After Midnight or Rosetta Stone, but Sex Gang Children? They were more punk. And of all the Nephilim singles, Preacher Man was the goofiest, most insipid song in their catalogue.

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art damij
Aug 14, 2012 2:29pm

...i'm just pleased to see high accolades & acknowledgements for two of my faves in there.. 'mind disease' & 'schwarze welt'.. nice one mick.

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qwhurty
Oct 23, 2012 3:29pm

who is the band in the picture above "the cult" and below "quidam" sorry if this is a n00b question

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Scott C.
Nov 30, 2012 5:48pm

It is rough to see a list that doesn’t include early Sisters or Joy Division or, yes, Siouxsie. While all three are way more than goth, they all had the dark sensibility that is required. More importantly, they inspired tons of other bands. If it’s all about the audience, pale faced, dressed in black, chain smoking, this list works. But for ones that stand the test of time, 17 Seconds, Faith, and Pornography still really bring it home. And I suppose Only Theatre of Pain is death rock, but, how can this classic album not only not make the list but not be #1??? To this day, it may be the quintessential goth/death rock album ever made.

If one were to arm themselves with Joy Division, Bauhaus, Cure, Sisters, Christian Death, March Violets, even 45 Grave, etc.., one would be making serious headway. With this list, ehhh, it’s goth by definition I guess but not much more. Which, in turn, is not enough. I’m way too old to wear a Danse Society t-shirt, way too embarrassed to consider wearing an All About Eve t-shirt but my Joy Division shirt has years left in it. I know there’s a point in that but I’m not quite sure what it is… Any sensibly minded goth would know better than to call themselves goth…?

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mick mercer
Mar 7, 2014 1:02pm

All things considered, one can at least consider Siouxsie's Juju album as gothic.

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andy
Apr 6, 2014 1:00pm

Can we consider records like In Solitude-Sister or Tropic of Cancer -Restless Idylls and Puerto Rico Flowers- 7 to be an example of goth of today?

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mick mercer
Jul 8, 2014 1:25am

In reply to mick mercer:

Someone has signed in as me, on March 7, 2014, to say a Banshees album is indeed Gothic? Some people are bizarre.

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Timothy Baldwin
Dec 15, 2014 2:39pm

A latecomer to "the goth scene" was I. Two later bands to DEFINITELY listen to are Funeral Party (from Massachusetts, NOT the L.A. pop band) "Serpentime" album,[exquisite music!] and Autumn (from Minnesota, NOT Holland) "Hating Tree" album - Wonderful songs and guitars!!

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Mr Rik
Dec 17, 2014 6:30pm

In reply to Johnny Nothing:

Yet another book/article/comment proving once again that Mick Mercer knows shag all about Goth.

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