All this week we're going to look back over albums from undeniable goth icons and talk about their failures.
Thus far I've been focusing on endings, what with Siouxsie and the Banshees' last album and another that made Robert Smith seriously consider ending The Cure. Now I'd like to bring up something more hopeful, but ultimately a failure in the reunion of Bauhaus and their 2008 album Go Away White.
The contribution to goth from Bauhaus, both as a collective and from the later careers of its assorted members can not in any way be overstated. They didn't invent goth, but they perfected it. Bauhaus defined a certain time of darkness, and it's easy to forget that they were in reality only together as long as your average local garage act.
A quarter of a century -- that's how long it had been since the quartet had released Burning From the Inside. You can't possibly know what to expect from such a happening. All we knew was that the band had decided to get back into a studio after a reunion concert at Coachella just to see what would happen.
What happened was an amazing record. I'm sorry if you don't agree, but not only is Go Away White exactly what we should have seen coming in retrospect from the last several albums by Peter Murphy and Daniel Ash, but it was accomplished with style and an easy grace. Why then is it such a disappointment?
Well, it certainly is to Bauhaus, I can tell you. Maybe not in terms of quality, but at least in terms of sales. When I interviewed Ash several years back, he mentioned that the record had sold only around 5,000 copies and that piracy downloads made turning a profit even more of a joke.
More to the point, though, Go Away White never had a single chance of pleasing anyone. It lacks pretty much anything that first drew people to Bauhaus in the first place save the members themselves. It has none of that droning, meandering poetry. In its place is a collection of dark pop that sounds more like a late-stage Iggy Pop release, or even the weirder moments of Jack White.
You simply cannot compare something like "Who Killed Mr. Moonlight" to a song like "International Bulletproof Talent." They don't exist in the same universe, and they cannot in any way call to the bat-infested souls. There's no room for the grand baroque emptiness that made Bauhaus the band it was in the modern world.
In short, it wasn't anything that was going to reawaken the forgotten youth of the Oldgoths, anymore than it was going to regrow Peter Murphy's hairline.
Which is why Go Away White is so daring and wonderful. When I compared it old man Iggy and Jack White that wasn't an insult. It's clearly crafted from the same places that gave us Daniel Ash's It's a Burn Out and Murphy's Unshattered, but it's raw and angry and so very, very open.
Sure, it's also a little unpolished for so accomplished a set of rockers, but a low key approach was pretty much the only thing that got them in the studio together in the first place.
No, "Endless Summer of the Damned" ain't no "Bela Lugosi's Dead," but it's still a military march of terrible rage, and it flows right into the spooky throwback that is "Saved." If you can't love "Saved" then I refuse to believe you actually own a Bauhaus record. Go Away White doesn't flow as seamlessly as the four early Bauhaus records, but that's to be expected of a band not working out the kinks in live performances.
At the final call, Go Away White is a major disappointment. The thing is, it's not the fault of Bauhaus. It's a disappointment to the goth community as a whole for insisting on the impossible and refusing to recognize what was clearly a new start and an interesting new direction for four very talented elder statesmen of the genre.
They weren't going to sit in storage for 25 years, and shame on us all for expecting them to just so we could pretend to be teenagers again trying so hard to be dark and mysterious. There is simply no place for the 21st-century Bauhaus in the hearts of frightened traditionalists. Much to our loss and sorrow.
Tune in tomorrow for more of the Five Most Disappointing Goth Albums.
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.