Thursday, February 3, 2011

Clan of Xymox – Medusa (4AD, 1986)

Well, this is going to be a difficult one to cover since the band’s official sites, their Wikkipedia entry and entry don’t actually seem to be able to agree on any basic facts like dates and much information like who played what and when is simply absent.

Perhaps we can focus on what we do know and simply hope for the best?

Coming out of the Netherlands in 1983 (or 1981, depending on who you believe) Clan of Xymox were led by Ronnie Moorings, who remains a distinctive entity by remaining the sole constant figure throughout their various incarnations.

Never one to let a truly diabolical hairstyle stand in the way, Ronnie led his band, originally known as just Xymox to change their name to Clan of Xymox, to move to England and release a self titled album (4AD, 1985) containing the astonishing single “One Day”.

Clan of Xymox are best remembered though for their second studio release Medusa which came out on 4AD in 1986 (or 1987 if one believes the band’s official sites – I’m personally more inclined to believe the 1986 date stamped on the back of my 4AD copy).

I love the Medusa album  –  it’s pretty, it’s introspective, it’s darkly ambient, it’s soothing. Other commentators have suggested it may have pre-empted the Darkwave movement. Medusa remains a wonderful album and well worth your time.

A brief aside: I personally remain suspicious of “Darkwave” – initially it was used as a genre label designed to describe those more electronic Goth bands in the 90’s, especially European acts, who didn’t fit into the Sisters/Nephilim template. Nevertheless, it was later bandied about, abused (much as the term "Goth" is nowadays) and applied to pretty much anything in the mid 90’s that didn’t quite fit. I once saw a record catalogue from a normally very reputable distributor that had 45 Grave of all things listed under “Darkwave” which I daresay would have surprised Dinah Cancer greatly. 

I'm not clear about the vintage of these first two live clips. The first, "Louise" seems relatively recent. The second, "Michelle", I suspect is considerably older, possibly even dating from the Medusa period, but then, with Xymox's penchant for chronological inaccuracy, your guess is as good as mine.

The one thing in my humble opinion that stops Medusa from claiming total brilliance, is that it didn’t include “A Day” from their first album, and one of the great break-up songs of all time (All right – one of my great break-up songs of all time). But this is my fewkin’ blog, so for the sake of magnificence, here it is anyway:

After Medusa, the band would reincarnate themselves, losing the “Clan of” somewhere around 1988 to become just Xymox once again and release a large number of albums in a more non-goth but dance oriented vein. The discography on the band’s official sites curiously includes all these releases, but is very coy about mentioning the change in direction.

Somewhere around 1997 however sees Ronnie (now the sole remaining original member) having a “road to Damascus” moment and the Goth version of Clan of Xymox is reborn. This nicely anticipates the more electronic direction of Goth’s third wave and a string of much more Gothy albums, both studio and live would follow, much of which was very good indeed.

They may not be up there with Bauhaus or Sisters of Mercy in terms of influence, but Clan of Xymox are indisputably one of the longest living and prolific Goth bands on the planet.

Track Listing:
  1. Theme I
  2. Medusa
  3. Michelle
  4. Theme II
  5. Louise
  6. Lorrentine
  7. Agonised by Love
  8. Masquerade
  9. After the Call
  10. Back Door
The 2000 re-release through 4AD on CD also contains bonus tracks Blind Hearts, A Million Things and Scum, although none of these are listed on the album sleeve.

Line Up: What an excellent question! Ronnie Moorings was definitely there and the rest of the original line up according to Wikkipedia was Peter Nooten, Frank Weyzig and Anka Wolbert. Gothic Rock (Mercer, Pegasus Publishing, 1991) suggests Ronnie Moorings on vocals, keyboards and guitar, Anka (Anke?) Wolbert on bass, keyboards and vocals, Pieter Nooten on keyboards, vocals and someone called Burt Bartan on keyboards. This was written much later than Medusa however, and one can only speculate as to the lineup that actually went on to play on that album.  The 4AD site does note that Ronnie, Pieter and Anke were the main songwriters. Better information is welcomed.


  1. You're underrating the first album somewhat - good songs on there besides A Day. Some of the later material also worthwhile in a Sisters-clone kinda way.

  2. Oh, I don't dispute that the first album has merits, but we all have our little favourites no?

  3. After CoX Frank Weyzig was member of seminal dutch goth band Born for bliss. Great single Arabia from them...