Saturday, December 31, 2011

Anorexic Dread – Tracy’s Burning 12” (Criminal Damage, 1984)

Falling somewhere in the gap between Alien Sex Fiend and a slo-mo version of The Cramps, the short-lived Anorexic Dread appeared out of DanielleDax’s hometown of Southend, Essex in 1983, lasting until just 1985. Perhaps best described as a kind of Horror-Punk / Psychobilly outfit, other obvious influences included The Birthday Party and Killing Joke. If they’d been American, it’s a fair bet that Anorexic Dread almost certainly would have come under the Deathrock tag. Frontman Phil Black was quick to belie the band’s morbid image however, stating

“..we go onstage and have just as much of a lunatic time leaping around. We don’t take what we do seriously. We go onstage to enjoy ourselves and we invariably do.”

The Tracy’s Burning 12” recorded at Diploma Studios represents Anorexic Dread’s sole contribution to vinyl. Interestingly, while lists only one version of the 12”, variations of the cover art appear to exist, with the band’s logo sometimes appearing top left, and sometimes in the top right. The variant album cover can be seen on the link below.

Side A of the 12” begins with the epic nine minutes plus title track “Tracy’s Burning” and its conclusion “Epitaph” while side B graces us with the much more Psycobillyesque “Tick Tock”. I must confess, that this didn’t do much for me on initial hearing, but it does grow on repeated listenings, actually becoming kind of endearing. And here for your listening pleasure:

Tracy’s Burning / Epitaph

Tick Tock

The band played quite a few venues around Essex including The Pink Toothbrush /Crocs (Don’t bother Googling “Crocs” – you’ll just end up with links to a lot of sites selling some spectacularly unattractive excuses for what passes as “shoes”). They also played The Batcave in London on at least one occasion, and managed to wrangle a support gig with Alien Sex Fiend, a coupling I imagine would have worked perfectly for them.

This live picture purports to have been taken at Crocs, but 
the source who was nice enough to point me in its direction disputes this.

Things didn’t last too long after the 12” however, with Anorexic Dread’s guitarist going walkabout as a roadie for The Cure. A new line-up did record a demo “Dark Night in London”, apparently in a more straight forward rock direction, but the band seems to have dissolved soon after. Other songs are documented to exist including “She’s Beautiful and She’s Mine”, “Dragnet” and “Limelight”, but as far as I can tell, none were ever formally released.

There’s a common misconception, especially amongst newer musical collectors of subgenres that “obscurity” somehow equates with “credibility”. In reality, some bands remained obscure because they weren’t in existence long enough to make a real impact, some because they never got the breaks, some because they were so left of field as to never catch on, and quite a lot who remained obscure because they simply weren’t that good. In the case of Anorexic Dread, I suspect that this is very much a matter of personal taste, but I do think it worth more than just one listen before making your mind up.

Track Listing:
  1. Tracy’s Burning / Epitaph
  2. Tick Tock

Line Up:
Phil Black (vocals), Leonard Finch (AKA: Leonardo de Finchie) (guitar), Magoo (keyboards), Donald Frame (drums)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Wasted Youth – Wild and Wandering (Bridge House Records, 1981)

Not to be confused with the LA hardcore band of the same name, The UK version of Wasted Youth formed in 1979 at the notorious Bridge House in East London’s Canning Town, which became at once pub, home base, gig venue and record label. Not that the lads were complete newbies to the music scene; brothers Ken and Andy had previously played in the Tickets, and bassist Darren was formerly in Darren’s Dead Flowers. An unreferenced Wikipedia article also states that Ken may have also had a past in a Black Sabbath influenced hard rock act known as Warrior, but other sources are curiously silent on the matter. Never fear – onwards!

The first singles “Jealousy” and “I’ll Remember You” both appeared in 1980 (Bridge House Records) before being compiled and rereleased for the French market as the cheerily monikered My Friends Are Dead 12” ( Underdog Records, 1980), and bearing cover art snapped at the bar of Bridge House that appears to be a homage to Hungarian photographer Brassai’s homoerotic “Un Costume Pour Deux .

"Gott in Himmel Fraulein! Von't you get cold like zat?"

The drummer here is curiously listed as one “Andy Doll”. Since Wikipedia states that Andy Scott was a founding member, it’s probably not going out on a limb to presume this to be a pseudonym, and that Andy Doll and Andy Scott are in fact one and the same. I stand to be corrected.

Somewhere in between the first two singles, original guitarist Mick Atkins exits stage left and is replaced by Rocco, formerly with punk outfit Smak, and the stage is set for the first full-length album Wild and Wandering (Bridge House Records, 1981).

The album begins strongly with the nodding “Maybe We’ll Die With Them”, but then moves onto shakier territory with the nowadays politically incorrect “Housewife”, perhaps post-punk’s answer to The Rolling Stone’s “Mother’s Little Helper” (London Records, 1966), and follows through with the lyrically shakey ode to cougars “Games” that in turn seems to be post punk’s answer to Simon and Garfunkle’s “Mrs Robinson” (Columbia, 1968 – or better still, just watch the actual movie “The Graduate”, Columbia Masterworks, 1967).

All is far from lost however, as we move into the very Velvet Underground-esque “Pinned and Grinning”. “Wasted” follows, an intriguing song with most of the lyrics constructed from a pastiche of titles of 60’s rock songs. “Spot the Reference!” - it’s a fun game the whole family can play (as long as they were born some time during the upper Jurassic) and indeed one that would be repeated decades later by the high priests of Electro-Clash Miss Kittin and the Hacker in “1982” (International Deejay Gigolo Records, 2001).

Things take an exciting new turn however with what is indisputably the album’s strongest song, the gender-bending track “I Wish I Was A Girl”, a strange tale of adolescent desire involving wearing your sister’s clothes.

The next track “If Tomorrow” unfortunately does little and gets filed under filler/dirge but we have a welcome return to form in “Survivors Pt. 1”, returning once more to the cross-dressing theme. This topic would already seem curious in itself, but doubly so since drummer Andy Scott was also pounding the skins for punk band Cockney Rejects, a group more commonly associated with violent gigs and football hooliganism than anything remotely resembling transgressing gender boundaries. 

Finally, Wild and Wandering then bows out with the very punk inspired, and again gay-friendly “Survivors Pt. 2” and leaves us on a strong note, one that must have been quite brave for the time in which it was recorded.

Maybe We'll Die With Them

I Wish I Was  a Girl

Survivors Pt. 2

Wasted Youth leave us with a legacy of just one more album, The Beginning of the End (Bridge House Records, 1982), which I won’t claim to have heard, but gets a dishonourable mention for its cover art, neatly encapsulating everything that was aesthetically wrong with the early 80s in one single image. Things weren’t improved by the earlier single Wildlife (Bridge House Records) in which something very bad apparently possessed them to remake the cover art of Dynasty by Kiss (Casablanca Records, 1979).

It wasn’t all bad though, with the single Rebecca’s Room (Fresh/Bridge House Records, 1981) coming out with some splendid art work that actually epitomised the emerging Goth vibe quite perfectly.

Two of these album covers are embarrassing. 
We'll leave it up to you to decide which.

Just two other albums were forthcoming, an apparent best-of ((From the) Inner Depth), Vinyl Cuts Records, date of release unknown) and a live album (Live, label unknown, date of release unknown) before Wasted Youth accept the wisdom of Nick Cave and “ Go shuffling out of life, just to hide in death awhile”.

Oh well. 'twas nice while it lasted.

Track Listing
1.Maybe We’ll Die With Them
4.Pinned and Grinning
6.I Wish I was a Girl
7.If Tomorrow
8.Survivors Pt. 1
9.Survivors Pt. 2

Line Up: Ken Scott (vocals, guitar), Rocco Barker (guitar), Nick Nicole (keyboards), Darren Murphy (bass), Andy Scott (drums, percussion, vocals)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Artery - Oceans EP (Red Flame, 1981)

Artery actually have a pretty sizeable back catalogue, so it’s almost surprising that they’ve somehow ended up languishing in Obscurity Corner.

These Sheffield chaps first materialised in 1979 from an earlier incarnation with the slightly pretentious moniker of “The”, before a name change and debuting with the single Mother Moon (Limited Edition Records, 1979), but at this point, although musically compelling, they’re still very much in the wider post-punk school rather than anything distinctively Goth.

Where things start to get interesting though is their third single “Afterwards / Into the Garden” (Armageddon Records, 1981) and the Oceans EP (Red Flame, 1982) which both contain solid slabs of early Goth Rock, despite the cover art of Oceans challenging that of Red Lorry Yellow Lorry for the coveted crown of “Least Goth Looking Ever”. Although Artery would deny having ever listened to Joy Division, the influence here is difficult to overlook, and these early recordings do seem to bear something resembling a head-on, if joyous, musical car crash between Joy Division and Bauhaus before the resulting wreckage was rear-ended by Killing Joke.

Main man Mark Gouldthourpe had something of a penchant for arty lyrics which occasionally gets the band in trouble, sometimes seeming angst-ridden to the point of being fraught, with resultant unintentional smirking on the listeners’ part. But not to mind – there are far worse thingsto encounter in the musical world, and if songs like “The Clown” and “Ghost of a Small Tour Boat Captain” seem unlikely inclusions, others like “Into the Garden”, “Afterwards” and “The Slide” are more than strong enough to make up for them.

After this though, things would bizarrely mutate, with massive line up changes and the next album “One Afternoon in a Hot Air Balloon” (Red Flame, 1983) largely consisting of of keyboard adventures in the vein of  plinky-plonky, honky-tonky and indeed, wonky-donkey. To borrow a phrase of my mother’s; it was all “just a bit twee”, which is a lot nicer than Martin Lilliker’s description “an absolute abomination” (Beats Working for a Living: Sheffield Popular Music 1973-1984 (Juma, 2005)). Liner notes on Artery, Into the Garden – An Artery Collection (Cherry Red, 2006) suggest that the album was virtually a solo project for Gouldthorpe and attempts to tour the new direction in Europe were apparently not well received. It’s probably not to everyone’s taste, and if you happen to be a regular visitor to this blog, chances are that it’s certainly not going to be to yours either.

The beast in question.
Perhaps the title should have been a warning.
Now never let us speak of this again.

Fortunately though, things improve again with The Second Coming album (Golden Dawn, 1984) and harder and stronger 12” releases like A Big Machine (Golden Dawn, 1984) displaying a new Birthday Party-lite sensibility, not to mention a substantial improvement in cover art.

Afterwards (Pleasantly Surprised, 1985), a collection of demos and live reordings followed, before Artery’s last bow, Number Four - Live in Amsterdam (Golden Dawn, 1985) and it was all over. Not that they went quietly though, with Artery members re-emerging in varying roles in a wildly disparate array of bands including Flight Commander, Death Trash, All About Eve, an early incarnation of Right Said Fred, Treehouse, Pulp (as a youngster, Jarvis Cocker was apparently mad about Artery), and most importantly to us here, keyboardist Simon Hinkler would reincarnate himself as lead guitarist with the newly formed The Mission, while Artery manager, Golden Dawn Records owner, and sometimes bass player Tony Perrin reappeared as The Mission’s manager.

Meanwhile, hop forward to 2009 and under Mark Gouldthorpe’s leadship, Artery have reformed, releasing the Standing Still EP (Phantom Power Records, 2009) followed by the album Civilisation (Twinspeed Records, 2011). 
Gosh, but don’t an awful lot of bands seem to be doing this at the moment?
Good luck to them.

Dear Mr Gouldthorpe, Actifed were wondering if you were 
finished with their gas mask and could they possibly have it back please?

Track Listing:
  1. The Ghost of a Small Tour Boat Captain
  2. Into the Garden
  3. The Clown (Studio version)
  4. Afterwards (remix)
  5. The Slide
  6. The Clown (John Peel Session)
  7. The Sailor Situation

Line Up:
Mark Gouldthourpe, Michael Fidler (vocals, guitars), Neil McKenzie (bass), Simon Hinkler (keyboards), Gary Wilson (drums).

Friday, September 30, 2011

Ipso Facto – Give it To Her EP (Zodiak Records, 1984)

This will be a short entry I suspect, given the almost complete dearth of information available on line. Research here is made doubly difficult by the emergence of the much more recent all girl outfit of the same name who inconveniently have been widely labeled  as “Goth”. (For the record, they’re not. But from what little I’ve heard, are not too bad either, and I suspect fans of Ladytron might find much to appreciate there).

Materialising out of Yorkshire, Ipso Facto had an ever-changing line-up revolving around their one constant member and vocalist Eb.

Their first release was the Mannequin 7” (IF, 1983) after which original bassist Ged Warren and some of the other early line up appear to have parted company and formed something called Sedition who released a solitary 12” The Mighty Device (Fon Records, 1986) which despite being produced by Cabaret Voltaire’s Richard Kirk, sadly didn’t really seem to get them anywhere.

Ipso Facto however, soldier on regardless, releasing their single biggest project, the Give it to Her EP/12” (Zodiak, 1984). Apparently only 500 copies of the original were pressed.

Somewhat oddly, and despite sheer weight of opinion being against them, the usually reliable has this release listed as “Life is a Cabaret – Is it?” presumably confused by the cover art on the album’s flipside. Still more confusingly, they appear to have the track listing in the wrong order despite it being printed very clearly on the front cover art. If only one had an original pressing to work out how on Earth they arrived at this conclusion.

The flip-side of Give It To Her. Eb didn't 
just do "vocals" - he did "words".

 It’s actually a quite engaging little record, despite what it lacks in the originality stakes. Curiously, the B side is actually stronger than the A side, although perhaps that’s simply my opinion. Although one can’t help but feel that Eb just really, really wanted to be the next Pete Murphy, it makes for a genuinely enjoyable disc. If you like Bauhaus, you'll like this. I Suggest you pick it up.

Give it to Her


Femme Etait Un Homme

Another two singles exist. There was the Noir Doir 7” (IF, 1984) and finally the Glass Tigers 7” (Zodiak Records, 1985). For a band so relatively obscure and about who so little online information is available, it seems quite remarkable that both the Give it to Her 12” and the Glass Tigers 7” are both readily available for download on iTunes. (Sweet Lord – did I really just give a plug to one of my most hated pieces of software?)

All this leaves us with one final mystery:
IF records apparently released just three pressings, the first two of which were the Ipso Facto 7”s Mannequin and Noir Doir. This and the label’s name may well lead those of a more suspicious mind to ponder whether the IF label was actually owned by Ipso Facto themselves. The real mystery here though comes with the enigmatic third pressing. It’s an untitled 7” (1985), allegedly from the Netherlands, and just to add to the oddness, the A & B sides were recorded at different speeds. Most interesting though, it comes from a band curiously titled In Formation (note the initials).  Did Eb actually do a little side project following Ipso Facto’s demise?

This warrants further investigation – we’ll get back to you.

Track Listing:
  1. Give it to Her
  2. Blue Angel
  3. Greta
  4. La Femme Etait Un Homme

Line Up: Eb Aneza(vocals), Vivienne (guitar), David Kane (bass), J. Fenn (drums), Steven Masters (saxophone)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ritual – Songs for a Dead King (unreleased – 1981 / 1983)

It’s been almost a year since we last discussed Ritual in an article that led to my discovery of the unreleased Songs for a Dead King. In bizarre mea culpa – it’s sat on my hard drive unheard until yesterday, and the loss is totally mine, because it’s very good indeed.

That Ritual never formally released this is almost a crime – it’s vastly better than the stuff they released through Red Flame.

As one might expect from their vinyl releases, it straddles the line between punk and what would become known as “Goth”. What one might not expect is the odd, and indeed cute, media samples in between songs.

Curiously, Ritual seem to have unleashed Songs for a Dead King on an unsuspecting world twice. The first time was in 1981, which they then followed up with the “Mind Disease” 7” (Red Flame, 1982) and the “Kangaroo Court” 12” (Red Flame, 1983) before Songs for A Dead King makes a reappearance in 1983. It’s not clear to me if the two versions are the same album in different packaging, or if Ritual actually recorded the entire thing over again.

The cassette cover of the 1983 version

A different version of “Mind Disease” appears here, and is much more engaging than the 7” version, and so does a much improved version of “Brides” from the Kangaroo Court 12”.

More importantly there are some brilliant tracks like “Portrait”, “End Product” and “Assassin” that don’t appear anywhere else, and a wonderfully aggression-fueled interpretation of The Velvet Underground’s “Waiting for the Man”.

And happily, some helpful little soul has put the entire thing on Youtube for us.

Structure (of my Madness)

Human Sacrifice








Waiting for the Man

End Product

Mind Disease


As noted, Songs for a Dead King was never formally released on any label. suggests that “While shopping their demo around the band compiled a cassette tape of live tracks and demo recordings to sell to fans.”
This raises more questions – was this album put together as a “proof of concept” thing for a forthcoming album, or was it perhaps produced for fans only? Seemingly it resides in a strange grey area of being more than a demo yet less than an album.

In the end though, it doesn’t really matter, because it’s quite brilliant, deserves to be more widely disseminated, and it’s here:

Track Listing
  1. Structure (of my Madness)
  2. Human Sacrifice
  3. Playtime
  4. Manpower
  5. Portrait
  6. Cult
  7. Brides
  8. Closedown
  9. Effigy
  10. Waiting for the Man
  11. End Product
  12. Mind Disease
  13. Assassin
I hate to use the same band pic twice, but there just isn't that 
much out there - if anyone wanted to send me something better, I'd appreciate it.

Line Up: Errol Blythe (vocals), Ray Mondo (drums), Jamie Stewart (guitar), Steve Pankhurst (saxophone)

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Sleeping Dogs Wake - Toys for Alice / Confined to memory 12” (One Little Indian, 1988)

For a band who managed to knock out no less than five full-length albums and had sufficiently decent distribution to see their CDs make it all the way to isolated little Perth, finding hard information online concerning these kids is surprisingly difficult. Their CD liner notes aren’t much help either.

Sleeping Dogs Wake were initially a two piece consisting of Robert Wilcocks and Karin Sharret, who seems to have had a thing for playing drums sans shirt, although judging from band promo pics they seem to have acquired an extra or two as time went on (members that is – how many shirts Karin eventually owned remains a matter of speculation).

Robert also appears to have some connection to German Darkwave outfit Girls Under Glass and the more industrial The Cassandra Complex, although it’s not terribly clear if he was actually a member or not. Both Robert and Karin also seem to have been involved in a relatively obscure dance/industrial project known as Cobalt 60.

Originally starting out in 86 or 87, rehearsing in Robert's Camden flat, the Toys for Alice / Confined to Memory 12”appeared in 1988 as their first release, and a thundering unique beastie it was. With the possible exception of a vaguely passing resemblance to the early electronica of Diamanda Galas, I honestly can’t think of anything similar that had gone before. Sleeping Dogs Wake weren’t quite as scary as Diamanda, although the necrophilic imagery of “Toys for Alice” certainly came close:

She dropped her gaze, those lips, those eyes,
I’ve got you at last,
Come closer, come closer,
Into my web,
I’ll not leave you living!
I’ll haunt you, I’ll haunt you!
Till your fresh young skin
Crawls back off your skull and the maggots step in.
Toys for Alice!

The B side “Confined to Memory” presents a considerably more restrained face of the band, although the vocal dynamics are astounding. It’s a mournfully beautiful piece of reflections on a dead (or possibly dying?) relationship. I suspect most of us have been there at some stage or another and know that empty feeling of wondering what the aftermath will be like and what will remain. It’s a magnificent break-up song, but I’d certainly be inclined to leave it until well after said break up.

Mick Mercer seemed to like them, noting Sleeping Dogs Wake in the summary of Goth History Part 2 (The Gothic Rock Black Book, Omnius Press, 1988) as one of the new up and coming bands to watch out for.

Two full length albums followed. The first of these was the exemplary Understanding (One Little Indian, 1989) which included both tracks from the Toys For Alice 12” and a number of others, often displaying some very odd lyrics. If art-rock is your thing, it comes highly recommended. Threnody (One Little Indian, 1990) came next – in a very similar vein from recollection, although it’s been years since I heard it.

Mick Mercer evidently had a change of heart however, describing them in Gothic Rock (Pegasus, 1991) as “Godawful pretentious bilge” which I always thought did Sleeping Dogs Wake material a terrible disservice.

They popped up again a few years later with Up! (One Little Indian, 1992) which I can’t claim to have heard, but by this time had added Haggis to their membership, who had previously played bass as a session musician on the Understanding album. Following this, SDW would undergo a complete change in direction on the utterly brilliant Sugar Kisses (Hyperium, 1993). A much more laid back approach than SDW had displayed previously, beautifully dreamlike and whimsical that remains a firm personal favourite to this day. They made their final full length album with Under the Stars (Hyperium, 1995). Robert seems to have more recently done some work with German Darkwave outfit Deine Lakaien on their April Skies album (Capitol, 2005).

I think we’ll close with some brief live footage, just because I can. The sound quality here is awfully muddy, but I think it makes for interesting viewing nevertheless.

Track Listing:
1. Toys for Alice
2. Confined to Memory

Robert Wilcocks (guitar, sampler, vocals), Karin Sharret (vocals, drums), other participants including Haggis and Jens Lankniv seem to have been added from the Up! album onwards.

Many thanks to Haggis for filling in some important gaps in the Sleeping Dogs Wake history.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

An Amusing Interlude - The Second Wave of Goth

I know – I do give 90’s Goth a lot of shtick.

Retrospectively, much of it was just plain clichéd, if not outright ridiculous. Much of it did consist of very sub-par Sisters and Nephilim clones. It was simply depressing that the much more exciting and adventurous developments in Darkwave like Printed at Bismark’s Death, Das Ich, Die Form, The Eternal Afflict and Ghosting that were emerging at the time from Europe, simply never seemed to catch on in the English-speaking countries.

I won’t name and shame, (the litany of the bands I detest from the period would make for a blog in itself) but really…much of it was just...well…awful.
That said however, is not to say that there weren’t some redeeming features, and some bands did it really well, and sometimes even intelligently.

I’m not going to analyse this in depth, but just to get it off my chest, what we have here is an inexhaustive sample of material from 90’s Goth that offended me least.

Rosetta Stone

To all intents and purposes, the band that launched the second wave. I’ve often wondered what might have wandered through the mind of journalist Mick Mercer when these kids burst out after he wrote that “Fresh impetus into the Gothy scene seems unlikely” (The Gothic Rock Black Book, Omnibus Press, 1988). Probably very little, since he declared the Goth scene dead for a second time writing in Gothic Rock (Pegasus, 1991) with “This book is all but done. I can’t see me doing another on the topic, unless Goth is due for an entire rebirth which seems totally unlikely”. Seemingly unapologetic, the Mighty Mick has since gone on to produce at least another three volumes on said topic.
“Deeper” is from their debut An Eye For the Main Chance (Expression Records, 1991) and their big hit “Adrenaline” from the album that bears its name (Cleopatra, 1993). These days, main man Porl King has moved on to a new project called Misery Lab.

The Marionettes

Hot on the heels of Rosetta Stone came The Screaming Marionettes, who would soon shorten their name somewhat. Although it’s probably safe to say The Marionettes represented a case of the anthemic over the cerebral, the title track of their debut album (Ave Dementia, Flicknife Records, 1991) remains a Goth dance-floor classic. Oddly enough, it doesn’t ever seem to have been released as a single. The Marionettes went on to release at least another three albums. Not seeming to take themselves completely seriously probably worked in their favour.


The third big name in the second wave.
It’s probably easier if I just confess up front to having always been uneasy with Nosferatu. Riding around in an antique hearse, and taking the vampire imagery beyond either the metaphorical or the tongue-in-cheek of “Bela Lugosi is Dead to the literal level never struck me as something resembling a serious musical project so much as a tribute to The Munsters. The harpsichord intro to “Vampyre’s Cry”, a complete rip-off of The SistersBlack Planet” didn’t help either. Indeed, it’s so close, that I’ve often wondered if it really was plagiarism or simply Nosferatu’s ill-advised attempt at humour.
Nevertheless, just as if you sit enough monkeys at typewriters, one of them will eventually replicate The Complete Works of Shakespere, even Nosferatu managed to get it right once in a while. This is from the B-Side of the Diva single (Possession Records, 1992).

Children on Stun

Charging out of Hasting, and certainly one of the better generic bands, these are from their album Tourniquets of Loves Desire (Cleopatra, 1994). They also get bonus points for taking their name from a March Violets song.  The album cover was certainly effective, if simple, with a specialist Goth record shop and label in Melbourne seemingly taking a variant of it as their logo. Unfortunately, if we fast-forward a few years, we find Children on Stun releasing an album entitled Mondo Weird (M and A Musicart, 1997) which must have seemed like a good idea at the time, and even worse was to come the following year with Outrageous, Outlawed, Outspoken (M and A Musicart, 1998), a title that sounds more like something that might emanate from the bowels of some hellish 80's hair metal band than anything remotely to do with Goth.

Corpus Delecti

Vastly more compelling than other many French Acts like say, Lucie Cries, Corpus Delecti swiftly rose to much-deserved prominence, for once escaping the cookie-cutter sound of so many Sisters clones, often with instrumentation more resembling Bauhaus. Even if the imagery was often over the top, it was a welcome change nevertheless. Absent Friend comes from their first album Twilight (Glasnost, 1993) and Saraband and Noxious from the Sylphs album (Glasnost, 1994). If you wanted to investigate deeper, then the Sarabands compilation (Cleopatra, 1996) comes highly recommended.

Brotherhood of Pagans

Another French band. When on the money, they did it much better than a legion of others. Forgiving them for calling their debut Tales of Vampires (Darkland of Tears, 1995) was considerably more difficult, but songs like "Resurrection" certainly helped.

Switchblade Symphony

And so we shift our attention to the US. Just as The UK scene had been swept up in the wake of The Sisters and The Fields of the Nephilim and moved away from their original post-punk origins, so too did the US scene become dragged away from its origins in Death Rock.
Switchblade Symphony neatly managed to rise above the rest of the pack though with a heavy synth wash and an often orchestral and laid-back approach that rendered Serpentine Gallery (Cleopatra, 1995) one of the shining jewels in the crown of second wave Goth.

Screams for Tina

Another US offering here. I must admit to not having particularly liked their eponymous debut album (Cleopatra,1993) which probably explains why it’s been years since I listened to it. “Eleven Eleven” was a good track however, and managed to make its way onto Cleopatra Records’ very dubious re-release of The Whip compilation (1993). Better still though was “Kristen”, which despite labouring under the now aged Goth cliché of the girl’s-name song, I thought quite exemplary for Goth from this period.

London After Midnight

Although their first album Selected Scenes from the End of the World (Apocalyptic Vision, 1995) occasionally verged into abject silliness, its earlier incarnation as a demo tape reportedly sold thousands of copies. Their second full length Psycho Magnet  (Apocalyptic Vision, 1996) was a much stronger beast and marks them as one of the last great Goth bands before everything went all dance oriented.


Absolutely nothing to do with the solo project of Motley Crue’s Nikki Sixx.
This little known US band were in fact a side project of influential black metal outfit Von, and to be fair, was almost certainly a cash-in attempt at Goth during a time when black metal was virtually unknown outside of Scandinavia.
Although far from being musically original, Sixx nevertheless managed to deliver something genuinely atmospheric in the occult vein without falling into the trap that caught so many bands like Nosferatu or Two Witches who all too often came off resembling a cheesy Hammer Horror fest.
Although Sixx never formally released any recorded material, the band remastered their 1991 demo Sister Devil on Nuclear War Now Productions in 2010.


These kids I admit to having discovered retrospectively. Somehow they completely slipped under the radar at the time I was still DJing and on hearing “Marilyn (My Bitterness)” at a Der Kellar night in Perth sometime around 2003 found myself in the slightly embarrassing position of having to ask the DJ (a guy who I knew had grown up through the scene listening to the stuff I used to spin) what it was. Worse still, I had to sing an approximation of the song to him – I remain astounded he was able to work out what on Earth I was on about.
Cruxshadows had some unfortunate tendencies towards horribly pretentious lyrics and album titles, but this song I felt was exceptional, and also made for a nice demarcation between the very rock oriented second wave and the very dancy third. “Marilyn (My Bitterness)” is taken from their second album, Telemetry of a Fallen Angel (Nesak International, 1996)

Big Electric Cat

For my money, they were absolutely the best Australian Goth offering from the second wave. Bands like Ikon and Subterfuge are worth checking out too, but BEC did it better, their demo “Susperia” making huge waves at the time it was released and their debut album Dreams of a Mad King (Cleopatra, 1994) even more so.


Like any good performer, we leave the best till last and end with a bang.
Germany’s Syria (largely a one-man project of Mr Christian Dorge) quite clearly worshipped the ground The Sisters of Mercy walked away from, and weren’t afraid to openly wear their hearts on their sleeves. All the signs were there, from their album art, the songs they chose to cover (brilliant versions of "Giving Ground" by The Sisterhood and The Sister's "Under the Gun" exist), and references in their songs to earlier Sisters material.

What set Syria apart from the rest of the 90’s Goth horde however, is that rather than slavishly copying, Christian Dorge ran with The Sisters’ post Vision Thing (Merciful Release, 1990) legacy and logically developed it to the place where The Sister’s should have gone instead of the mire in which Andrew Eldrich has floundered for the last 20 or so years. Ozymadias Of Egypt (Black October Records, 1993) remains a criminally under rated album of Goth’s second wave – if only Andrew Elritch was listening…

I know, I do diss 90's Goth a lot in retrospect, but to be fair, 
photographic evidence suggests that at the time I might have been quite into it:

Your humble author (circa '94) - doing his 
best to show exactly how not into it he was.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Actifed – Dawn of a Legion 12” (Jungle Records, 1983) / Crucifixion 12” (Jungle Records, 1984)

A curious enigma Actifed present us with here – while it’s very easy to find downloads on the net, it’s also very difficult to locate any solid information. Even that Mercer chappie isn’t much use here, with Gothic Rock (Pegasus Publishing Ltd, 1991) omitting them altogether and mentioning them only in passing in The Gothic Rock Black Book (Omnibus Press, 1988) with the description

“bandwagon terrorists…(who) might normally have been allowed access but for the sheer proliferation of bands.”

So let us consider what we do know.

Actifed evidently started up around 1981 in London and despite some brilliant coverage in the UK music press, promptly ran into a whole shitstorm of legal entanglements with pretty much everyone. Contractual issues with dodgy promoters and record labels abounded and worse was to come. A certain pharmaceutical company evidently had misgivings about the band’s name, based as it was on a brand of cough & cold syrup which later became famed and in some regions banned for its high content of pseudoephedrine.

This wouldn’t be a promising start for any fledgling band, and probably links into why the band in their original incarnation released just two 12” albums although they apparently had a full length planned.

The first of these 12” was Dawn of a Legion in 1983. The magnificent cover art of a bishop praying over a soldier, and both wearing gas masks aside, this is quality stuff, but still clinging to a very punky quality, just as The SistersTemple of Love” single (Merciful Release, 1983) was beginning to see the scene moving away in a completely different direction.

Although it would probably be safe to say that Dave was not the most talented vocalist to ever to grace the Goth scene, he was certainly far from the worst and Dawn of a Legion stands the test of time as an enjoyable listening experience. We begin strongly with “Creation”, a tale of John Merrick, better known as the Elephant Man. “Prophesy” and “Innocent” follow, providing catchy, if simplistic hooks that make them hard not to like.

The 12” closes with the dynamic and very punky indeed “Exit”, which one can easily imagine setting the dance floor on fire in a live performance.

That's not a quiff! This is a quiff!

Fast forward a year, and we arrive at the  Tony James produced Crucifixion 12”. Crucifixion was easily the strongest song of the band’s first incarnation, and indeed appears on at least three Goth compilations that I’m aware of (Flesh, Fangs & Filigree - Dressed to Kill, 1996, Gothic Rock 3 - Jungle Records, 1998, and the DIY Make it Dark in Here - Raw Goth Insurrection, 2011). It’s a real testament to the song’s power that Actifed by this point had acquired a saxophonist (I really fuckin’ hate saxophone) and yet, “Crucifixion” still manages to delight.

Unfortunately, side two is rather less pleasing. Apart from irritating Ska tendencies in general, did I happen to mention that I really HATE saxophone? It honks annoyingly throughout both “Black Skin” and “Blue-Eyed Boy” (effectively different versions of the same song - itself a cover of 60s funk outfit The Equals ("Black Skin Blue Eyed Boys" - President Records, 1969)) in a way that makes me wish I had a time-machine so I could go back in time and shove that fucking horn right up his...

Sorry, I got a wee bit carried away there.
But seriously – you know that pair of Muppets?
The ones with the car-horn ears?
Yeah - the ones who honk their nose and their ear-horns go off?
That’s what this sounds like.
And it makes me want to punch Actifed every time I hear it. Which is a real shame for an otherwise decent band. It may also go some considerable way towards explaining why Richard Kick made one of the single most silly statements in the history of music journalism when prior to the Crucifixion 12” he wrote


And while we’re here, we also have this spectacularly uninformative interview from 1983.

And like so many others, Actifed are back too after a 25 year hiatus, releasing the full-length Chains No More (Revelation Records, 2009) which appears to be mostly old songs they never got to release the first time around, and in an apparent attempt at the world title for cheesiest album name ever, Rhythms of Mass Destruction (Revelation Records, 2011) which reportedly may be a return to the Ska influences.

Boy, do they love those gas masks - I sure
hope they’ve lost that fucking saxophone.

I do wonder if they normally perform in gas masks? Surely a tad on the warm side?

Dawn of a Legion - Track Listing
  1. Creation
  2. Prophesy
  3. Innocent
  4. Exit

Crucifixion – Track Listing
  1. Crucifixion
  2. Black Skinned
  3. Blue Eyed Boys

Line Up: Dave (vocals, guitars), Clinton (guitar), John (bass), Stuart (drums) and some really, really irritating unknown person (saxophone).

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Red Lorry Yellow Lorry - Talk About the Weather (Red Rhino Records, 1985)

Yet another of the sprawling Horde of Leeds, The Lorries actually released their debut single “Beating My Head” (Red Rhino Records) right back in 1982, but it would be another three years and two Peel Sessions before their first full-length Talk About the Weather would see the light of day.

Their first single which for a band who by popular perception 
became slotted into the Goth genre, had about as un-Goth 
a piece of cover art as it is possible to imagine.

Taking their name from a lesser known tongue twister (go on, you try saying “Red Lorry Yellow Lorry” five times fast after a couple of pints), the group brandished a musical style, both belligerent and bleak, not unlike a much less restrained version of Joy Division although the Lorries themselves would maintain that a much bigger influence was post-punk outfit Wire.

Talk About the Weather is a loud and desolate piece of engaging post-punk, that for better or worse saw the group labeled as Goth. If we accept that The Lorries at this stage, did indeed fall under the Goth umbrella, then they make a compelling argument for what Goth with maturity can be – tales of vampires, belltowers, Crowleyesque references, and girls with unlikely exotic names ending in “a” are simply unnecessary when human angst, cynicism and ennui are sufficient in themselves to render bleak atmospheres and dark soundscapes.

Nowhere is this better demonstrated in the album’s accompanying single “Hollow Eyes” (Red Rhino Records, 1984):
“I’ve seen that look, I know those eyes, I think this is a thin disguise,
Alone at last, but no surprise, I’d seen it in those hollow eyes,
You should have seen them…
An empty room, an empty space, But you can’t really hide your face,
I’ve seen that look of hate inside, I see it in those hollow eyes.
This is the place where I have seen, you hide behind your sunken dreams,
I had this feeling deep inside, you hid behind those hollow eyes.”

‘tis a merry little ditty no?

Around the 84-86 period the artwork became decidedly darker

But you don’t need to listen to me banging on about RLYL’s sound, not when various helpful netizens have put Talk About the Weather in its entirety on Youtube. Go – hear it for yourself.

A second single “This Today” (Red Rhino Records, 1984) was also in the mix there somewhere, but after Talk About the Weather, drummer Mick Brown would depart, joining Wayne Hussey and his chums on the run from The Sisters of Mercy to form what would become The Mission. Meanwhile Red Lorry Yellow Lorry under a new configuration would release Paint Your Wagon (Red Rhino Records, 1986) and a small litter of new singles.

Later RLYL albums like Nothing’s Wrong (Situation Two, 1988) and Blow (Situation Two, 1989) would grow to display more musically rich textures and while arguably less bleak and Gothy, nevertheless remain quality work.

I must admit, none of those videos were that visually engaging, so here is some live (and presumably bootleg) footage of them performing Talk About The Weather in Brussels in 2004 to make up for it.

Come to think of it, that wasn’t too visually spectacular either, but at least it contains images of people who were reported to be actual living beings – oh well, moving right along…

As the video suggests, they’re still going, releasing the self-issued Black Tracks EP in 2004, their first since 1991’s Blasting off (Deathwish Office, 1991), and playing live at Slimelight as recently as October 2010.

And so we end as we began with The Lorries continuing their 
long-running penchant for very un-Gothy cover art. 
Note the distinct absence of gargoyles...

Track Listing:
1)      Talk About the Weather
2)      Hand on Heart
3)      Feel a Piece
4)      Hollow Eyes
5)      This Today
6)      Sometimes
7)      Strange Dream
8)      Happy

Talk about the Weather was re-released on CD first as a split with their second album Paint Your Wagon by Cherry Red in 1994 and again as a CD in its own right in 2005 with massive amounts of bonus tracks, also through Cherry Red.

Line up: Chris Reed (vocals, guitar), David Wolfenden (guitar), Paul Southern (bass), Mick Brown (drums)