The Thirty Best Goth Records Of All Time
, 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?
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.