Goth is a serious business. At its most embryonic, it took glam rock and filtered it through punk, capitalising on its nihilistic grandeur and shadowy bombast. Reluctant “gothfather” and blank cassette tape salesman Pete Murphy of Bauhaus pretty much forged a career by creating a gloomier David Bowie tribute act, while Roxy Music cast a long art-rock aesthetic shadow on goth’s style and sensibility. Adherents of the genre escalated the glam look with pretentious Renaissance-inspired excess, albeit in stark monochrome.
Yeah, goth is a serious business alright. So it makes things all the more extraordinary when those bands bravely venture outside the confines of their misery-rock template to take on the pop world.
But what are the burnished gems amongst the extensive catalogue where morbid misanthropy meets the toppermost of the poppermost? Join us now, as we venture into the surreal hinterland of the goth-pop paradox.
The Sisters Of Mercy – Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!
(A Man After Midnight, Abba)
Andrew Eldritch quickly cottoned onto the deep irony of cheesy pop reinterpreted with the grandiose, bombastic arrangements of goth at its most imperious. While Laughing Andy and his band delivered a truly dark reinvention of Hot Chocolate's tragic ballad Emma and a menacing take on The Stones' Gimme Shelter, they eventually went fully sardonic with this live remake of Abba’s disco classic. They’ve done much worse though, as we will soon discover...
Paradise Lost – Small Town Boy (Bronski Beat)
However much Jimmy Somerville's falsetto may get on your tits, along with West End Girls by the Pet Shops Boys and The Sun Always Shines On TV by A-ha, this Bronski Beat track is a perfect example of classic 80s pop with a dark underbelly. Recognising how the song's theme of alienation can be applied to followers of gothic, metal and punk subcultures as well as sexuality, PL's appropriately anguished treatment emphasises the track's supremely melancholic tone. The original Bronski version perfectly captured the early 80s zeitgeist of gay teens escaping the bigotry and insular confines of their small-town England existence for a new life of discovery in the city amongst a like-minded milieu. An enduring motif of late adolescence.
Bauhaus – Telegram Sam (T-Rex)
Their blistering cover of Brian Eno’s Third Uncle (from the electro wizard’s post-Roxy Music second solo album) was wondrous. But this earlier cover remakes Marc Bolan’s glamtastic glitter-dripping hippy-tinged track into a macabre teeth-grinding amphetamine-fuelled two-minute aural mugging. Released as the fourth Bauhaus single in 1980 – just eight years after the T.Rex original – they made it their own with the trademark Bauhaus sound: Daniel Ash’s feedback-echoing guitar, David J’s spidery bass fretwork and Kevin Haskin’s cold and clinical skittering percussion. It grafts glam onto goth like a sonic experiment during an after-hours piss-up on the island of Dr Moreau.
The Sisters Of Mercy – Jolene (Dolly Parton)
Jolene's blues-alike subject and its despairing lyrics aren’t too far removed from the Romantic era poets who influenced goth lyricists. Dolly herself said Jolene was a true story, based on someone who flirted with her husband when they were newlyweds, which is why she didn’t like to sing it too often. The Sisters recorded it in their early years – around 1983 – as a demo. They later returned to wholesome morality when they inexplicably chose to perform 1980s school assembly standard and favourite of happy-clappy RE teachers, He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands as an encore during their headline slot at Reading 1991. A medley with The Stooges’ 1969 that also confusingly includes a furiously shouted excerpt of Monty Python’s Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life.
Siouxsie & The Banshees
Strange Fruit (Billie Holiday)
The original version of this track was perhaps the single greatest protest song of the 20th century and it’s the subject of a highly anticipated forthcoming movie. Siouxsie And The Banshees’ cover of Billie Holiday’s stunning 1939 single is respectful while building on Abel Meeropol’s period songwriting. The gorgeous arrangement foregrounds strings, but overall, it’s redolent of a New Orleans funeral accompaniment. Siouxsie’s own singing style has always maintained a jazz-inflected influence and she imposes her vocals with grace. A fantastic clarity of production by Mike Hedges, it’s from the band’s 1987 covers album Through the Looking Glass. The same album’s similarly impressive covers of This Wheel’s On Fire (composed by Dylan/Danko, but popularised by Julie Driscoll) and Iggy Pop’s The Passenger were hit singles for the band (as was their earlier cover of The Beatles Dear Prudence), but Strange Fruit is a true labour of love.
DJ Brent Chittenden
has this weeks instalment of
“This week: An all covers episode featuring new Ministry, some 3Teeth, Depeche Mode and Laibach performing a song from the Sound of Music.”
Along with some great hosting from TGG
click the picture below to check out
DON'T FORGET TO LIKE AND FOLLOW OUR PAGE FOR NEW SHOWS
MAY GOOD JUJU FIND YOU