Over the course of the week, Rocks Off will be looking at the biggest years for goth music and exactly what they meant for the genre.
Nineteen ninety-four was a good year for a new kind of goth. Previously, for the most part the men had been sensitive artists, and even the ones who could be pretty brutal -- such as Nick Cave -- never seemed to lose their sense of grace and elegance. But two men changed all that, one real and one fictional.
The first was Trent Reznor. Disguised as a hard-rock/industrial musician, Reznor shot into the spotlight with Pretty Hate Machine in 1989. That album alone would have cemented his place as a great goth musician, but it was his second album, 1994's The Downward Spiral, that showed that not only was he a rock star, he was a master of production and audio vision. "Closer" remains one of his biggest hits, if not in fact his biggest, while "Hurt" has become almost like a hymn thanks to honorary goth Johnny Cash's harrowing 2003 cover.
More than anything, Reznor managed to change the image of goth through the video for "Closer" directed by Mark Romanek. The new goth was aggressive, sensual, even base, without any of its predecessors' aspirations of nobility. This transition was even more pronounced in the rise of Reznor's protégé Marilyn Manson.
Reznor produced Manson's 1994 debut Portrait of an American Family. Both albums received widespread airplay and critical acclaim.
Like it or not, Manson and his brand of goth became the dominate face of the genre for the rest of the '90s, even to being the somewhat official spokesman when it came time to denounce the idea of the Columbine shooters as goth in 1999.
Also in 1994 came Cave's Let Love In, recorded with his backing band the Bad Seeds and featuring "Red Right Hand," while Tori Amos dropped Under the Pink, featuring Reznor on "Past the Mission." Across the board, goth harnessed both its more classic elements and its more testosterone-driven modernism.
Also, a movie you might have heard of came out, called The Crow.
James O'Barr's tragic gothic comic book, inspired by loss and the lyrics of Ian Curtis and Robert Smith as well as the poetry of Arthur Rimbaud, is something of the perfect goth work of pop literature. Certainly the vengeful Eric is goth's best-received superhero. The movie, though, personified the rage of '90s goth while linking to the origins that played so significant a part in the comic's creation.
Heavyweights like The Cure, The Jesus and Mary Chain, and NIN as well as less mainstream goth acts like Machines of Loving Grace and Medicine all added to the perfection of the soundtrack, as well as the darker sides of non-goth bands like Stone Temple Pilots and Rage Against the Machine. There hasn't been a movie soundtrack since The Crow in 1994, though many have tried.
It's not that the old guard wasn't still producing in 1994. Peter Murphy put out Cascade a year later, and The Cure had a Top 10 hit in Wish two years earlier. But just as the hair-metal of the '80s began to pale in the face of grunge, so did goth's lace-and-satin approach give way to something wilder.
Tune in tomorrow for... 2002.
Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.