Tag Archives: goth

The Twilight Sad, “Nil (Liars remix)”

I’m not really a fan of remixes and/or extended mixes, just as I’m not generally a fan of sequels (unless you tell me Al Pacino is the villain in an upcoming Stan Lee joint). Remixes by nature are just filler to keep you on the dance floor longer, even if we’re talking about a goth remix — which should be an oxymoron — and said club-goer is just going to be holding up the walls all night in some dark corner.

I’m, of course, referring to the “goth” culture before it had a name and was then promptly sold to Disney, before people tweeted misery to other antisocial “nonconformists” who also dress up like Tim Burton characters. Does anybody remember The Cure’s abomination, “Mixed Up,” a collection of its hits in New and Improved 30 Percent Larger Fun Pack versions? On “Lullaby” alone, listeners are left stuck — like a spider’s meal — in a hepped-up groove somewhere near the beginning of the song for nearly eight torturous minutes. It’s embarrassing to say it now, but there was a time when Robert Smith could do no wrong, and I listened to “Mixed Up” as faithfully as all the rest of his output, even side project The Glove.

But I digress. My point here is that the Liars’ remix of The Twilight Sad’s “Nil,” (off the latter’s third full-length, “No One Can Ever Know”) is one of the best remixes I’ve heard. I’ll admit that I am perhaps just flogging a dead horse, as in the evolving climate, the line between remixes, sampling and covers is quite blurry. In any case, the only peers to this remix that spring to mind are a few entries off 2012’s “Dross Glop,” reinterpreting The Battles’ “Gloss Drop,” such as The Alchemist’s remix of “Futura.”

Ultimately, I think a good remix is able to give the original new appeal, which is what happened in the case of “Nil.” I’d sort of passed by The Twilight Sad’s catalog with barely a glance before hearing the gussied-up Liars mix. Now, I know better.


SEE ALSO: EARGGH! reviews Liars, “Loose Nuts on the Veladrome”

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Dead Can Dance, “The Host of Seraphim”

There’s something deeply disturbing about crowds of people sorting through trash at the landfill for goodies — like they’re just milling about at a yard sale — as dump trucks deliver their fly-infested fare almost directly on top of them. It happens every day in India and Nicaragua, where people actually build their homes beside the mountains of garbage, so as to be closer to their “place of employment.” Hell, maybe it’s happening in the good ol’ U.S.A. by now.

When played against Dead Can Dance’s “The Host of Seraphim,” off its 1988 album, “The Serpent’s Egg,” the aforementioned scene takes on a pastoral, nigh-ethereal quality. Which is fitting, because seraphim (a word that can mean either serpent or angel) comes from the Old Testament.

I had already regarded this song by the Australian goth/world music duo (also described as “apocalyptic folk” on Wikipedia) as a masterwork when I experienced it through my eyes in the 1992 cinematic travelogue, “Baraka.” It’s a great example of DCD’s ken for fusing different worlds of expression together — in this case, Bulgarian choral singing is blended with Gregorian opera, and Lisa Gerrard lets it all hang out, climbing within spitting distance of the angels.

Aside from this scene, the “Seraphim” passage counts as the best moment of the film.

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Warsaw, “Inside the Line”

Warsaw, of course, is just Joy Division before it called itself Joy Division. If you didn’t know that, you must immediately rip up your Goth Club membership card. What you might not know is that for its first performance, the band went under the name of Stiff Kitten (at least on gig posters), which isn’t important, but it’s fun to say out loud at the public library.

“Inside the Line,” from the band’s first recording session in July 1977 in Manchester, already showcased Peter Hook’s dazzling bass hooks. The session was the only one not to feature Stephen Morris on drums. Steve Brotherdale mans the skins. Actually the band’s second drummer, Morris being the third, he was notable for trying to get Ian Curtis to leave Warsaw for Brotherdale’s other band, Panik (and reportedly got as far as convincing Curtis to audition for Panik, or at least to try singing along with a tape of Panik that Brotherdale had made).

The band admittedly was still learning how to play its instruments — down to Ian Curtis rocking a punk-rock yowl — when it went into the studio, producing the five-track demo itself. Not happy with the quality of the demo or its future output as Warsaw, nothing was released (except bootlegs and its single contribution to the live benefit album, “Short Circuit”) until the 1994 compilation, “Warsaw.” One EP, “An Ideal for Living,” was recorded in December 1977 when the band was still Warsaw, but not released until 1978 when it had changed to Joy Division (so as not to be confused with Warsaw Pakt, who had laid tracks on wax in 1977), meaning it’s debatable … but also irrelevant.

I love the Warsaw stuff, particularly those first five tracks. There is so much energy and a feeling that the songs are about to come flying apart. I was lucky enough to frequent a mom-and-pop record store years back whose owner happened to have all the Warsaw bootlegs and made me copies. Yes, that’s right, humbled reader, I was without a doubt the first person on my block to crank up Warsaw on a Magnavox sound system back in 1989.

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Tim Buckley, “Song to the Siren”

Like most self-absorbed, socially awkward, poetry-writing teenagers, I was heavily steeped in the Cocteau Twins and whatnot during my musically formative years. Hence, I had the “Lonely is an Eyesore” vinyl box set when it came out and treasured it, as I had once fawned over my Farrah Fawcett pillow, with her smiling cheekily in a diarrhea-brown bikini.

Which is how I was first introduced to “Song to the Siren,” as sung by goth supergroup This Mortal Coil on the 1987 compilation. I still have a soft spot for that version; I mean, Elizabeth Fraser is the bacon of musicians: She makes everything better. But it really is more of a “Song of the Siren,” if you know what I’m saying.

But, the rawness, the stark simplicity of Buckley’s 1968 version of “Siren,” from the 1999 compilation, “Works in Progress,” (or the haunting, heart-aching and better-known version from 1970’s “Starsailor,” which TMC’s cover is based on) gives the song a richer texture, without all that self-conscious New Wave polish.

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Dirty Beaches, “True Blue”

I’m the first to admit that I don’t listen to much music coming out of Taiwan.

In fact, it wasn’t until I did some research on Dirty Beaches that I realized I’d been listening to an export from the East Asian state for the past year or so, after stumbling across DB’s 2011 album “Badlands” on Spotify. Dirty Beaches is the stage name for Taipei-born multi-instrumentalist Alex Hungtai, who now calls Montreal home.

“True Blue,” off the goth- and rockabilly-flecked, Suicide-inspired “Badlands,” sounds like a Sun Records 45 single played at 33 rpm (while tripping on acid by oneself in a candlelit bathroom). There are traces of Elvis Presley and Carl Perkins to be sure, but there’s something unsettling in that disembodied drone coming from Hungtai, all that reverb, the mistuned guitar — and a lovelorn falsetto toward the end. It feels a bit like how Willy Wonka walks: two steps forward and one step back.

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Love and Rockets, “The Dog-End of a Day Gone By”

Love and Rockets’ 1985 debut “Seventh Dream of Teenage Heaven” might have been the sixth studio album by Bauhaus, had Peter Murphy not switched careers midstream to live out his dream as a dime-store Nijinsky.

Music’s richer for that decision, though. “Seventh Dream” clears away all the cobwebs that stuffed up Bauhaus’ 1983 anticlimactic “Burning From the Inside.” And David J and Daniel Ash are just better vocalists than Murphy, who often came off theatrical and a bit oafish — sort of how I feel about Jim Morrison.

On “Seventh Dream,” L&R carved out a direct path from Pink Floyd to shoegaze, most notably on “The Dog-End of a Day Gone By.” Rockets’ finest moment would come with 1987’s “Earth Sun Moon,” when its psychedelia and pop sensibilities mingled perfectly, but “Seventh Dream” was that first giddy step, letting in those first rays of light.

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Inca Babies, “The Judge”

Imagine a band like Black Flag trying to make do in a roller disco world.

That’s pretty much the deck dealt to Inca Babies, a 1980s death rock band from Manchester, gigging at a time when the city was in the throes of a British soul revival — one which would climax with the abominable 1987 “release” of George Michael’s WMD, “Faith.”

From a 1984 7- and 12-inch, “The Judge” is Inca Babies at its finest. Raw, swampy blues given a bath in the fryer, singer Mike Keeble howling away at the mic. It’s hard to mistake the influence of The Birthday Party, something the band readily admitted. But it’s still a keeper.

Speaking of which, Bristol, England, band The Pop Group, who in 1979 released the wild, genre-blurry “Y,” also draws comparisons to The Birthday Party, though perhaps it should be the other way around, as their debut predated Nick Cave and co.’s by a couple of years. Similarities are uncanny on the track, “Thief of Fire” (linked below).

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Colourbox, “Hot Doggie”

The odd duck off 1987’s generally lugubrious 4AD sampler, “Lonely Is an Eyesore,” the frenetic “Hot Doggie” by London electronauts Colourbox thankfully came at the beginning of the album, I used to think back when my girlfriend and I shared the same black eyeliner. Just airlift the needle over to groove No. 2, and sit back and brood.

It’s just in the past couple of years that I have come to appreciate “Hot Doggie.” Consisting of voice samples from advertisements and TV shows (including the intro to 1970s hit show “The Incredible Hulk”) and big “Funky Cold Medina”-like beats, the song struck me as cheesy and annoying when it came out. But now so overtly an artifact of its time, the song takes on a new dimension, not unlike how once throwaway pop art these days keeps your nearest museum in business.

Colourbox that same year would gain international recognition for its collaboration with pop duo A.R. Kane on “Pump Up the Volume,” noteworthy for being almost completely constructed of samples from other albums and for giving Christian Slater another reason to move his eyebrows up and down while talking like a super-high McGruff the Crime Dog.

Then Colourbox disbanded, none of its four members to ever be heard from again.

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Salem, “Sick”

Liars may have flirted with goth-hop on 2004’s “They Were Wrong, So We Drowned,” but the mysterious, all-white, upper Midwestern band Salem dives in head first on its debut, “King Night,” released in 2010.

The album, a blend of socially deviant electronics and druggy raps, is a woozy, syrup-sticky affair, not unlike Death Grips slowed way down. And while the album overall feels more stepping stone than standalone, it contains one enduring gem: “Sick.”

A brilliant slab of trip-hop, “Sick” is as slick and cool-headed as anything by U.K.’s Portishead. But, lyrically, it concerns the disturbing reflections of a worn-out sex offender. As such, some have branded Salem a “blackface” band — slowing down its vocals to sound black and then employing misogynous, violent lyrics.

But such criticism exposes the racist underpinnings of American society much more than any intentional or unintentional disrespect by Salem here. I personally think they are rap fans who aren’t trying to mimic black music. Hence, Salem’s original spin on the genre.

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The Cure, “New Day”

Before the Dream drowned in too much beer, hairspray and mascara (right around the time the band hired a roadie to be its keyboardist in 1990), The Cure was responsible for some of the — if not most inventive, then at least most downright delirious — music of the 1980s.

Think teetering, inebriated “The Caterpillar” off the band’s enduring 1984 brain-spinner, “The Top.” Or the zany, drug-fueled take on the big band era, “Why Can’t I Be You?” from the grossly overfat 1987 double-album, “Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me.” And then think of all that crap that was coming out in the mid-’80s. Here, I’ll help remind you: Huey Lewis and the News, Wham! and the “Miami Vice” soundtrack.

Some of The Cure’s most interesting experiments were never even intended for mass consumption. Take “New Day,” recorded in 1985. The song was originally released as part of a limited edition EP distributed only in the U.K. But it includes some of Robert Smith’s most interesting vocals, and it’s got this great dark jungle funk feel — like something Herbie Hancock might think up while coming down from a bad acid trip.

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