Four decades on from the earliest tracks on here, it is difficult to imagine how stark and unsettling this music appeared in the context of its time. Reworked by the Editors and their many modern descendants into arena rock, the post punk atmospherics have been watered down for mass consumption while Nine Inch Nails and Depeche Mode have borne the standard proudly. The anemic grooves and robotic beats that formed much of the basis of the goth era are, as essential to the music of breakthrough acts like Sleaford Mods as they were to Alien Sex Fiend and Sisters Of Mercy.
This comprehensive history of UK goth includes everyone you would expect like The Cure, Joy Division, Bauhaus, Adam And The Ants, The Mission, The Damned, Fields Of The Nephilim, and even Public Image, Ltd, who don’t sound out of place in the least. Cult classics abound with Gene Loves Jezebel, Dead Can Dance, Red Lorry Yellow Lorry, and Love & Rockets. The whole thing is given context and purpose by lost gems like Brigandage’s - Angel Of Vengeance, which comes off like Deborah Harry fronting The Velvet Underground, and the epic menace of Play Dead’s - The Tenant. The only obvious omission is Echo And The Bunnymen.
It’s not all great, with S-Haters, for example, sounding so flat it sounds like someone recorded it in his bedroom while his mum was at the shops. But, sandwiched between The Cure and Dead Can Dance it only serves to highlight the high quality of the other bands here. Anyone who knows Nick Cave only from his sophisticated crooning of recent years will find it hard to recognise him amid the throat-shredding screams of The Birthday Party’s - Release The Bats'. Ian Astbury filled in for Jim Morrison during The Doors’ reunion tour but it’s as the soaring voice of The Cult that he is still best known. Your jaw will drop when you hear how fully rounded his voice is on the full-length version of Southern Death Cult’s - Moya, it’s viscerally stirring.
Goth is often overlooked in retrospectives of the time. Punk, new wave, new romantic, new wave of British heavy metal, and even the various appropriations of soul have all been re-evaluated in the intervening time, but not goth; and maybe that’s how it should stay. Many of these bands burned brightly and disapparated but they spawned something darkly beautiful; a movement that continues to this day. Last weekend the Species Festival in the Iron Mountains of Leitrim saw the latest generation show off their wares. The bands on Silhouettes And Statues sowed the regret and introspection from which these black flowers bloomed. Dig out your eyeliner and oversize rings; this is the only goth compilation you’ll ever want and need.
Silhouettes and Statues is available via Amazon.