Sunday, December 28, 2008

Work & Records No.2, Bauhaus


It's quite nice to be putting together a Bauhaus mix for my sister, as she did introduce them to me back in 1988. Two cassettes that had seen better days. Obviously these things had been covered in incense and whatever else, rolling around on the floor of that beat to shit 1979 Ford Fiesta that she shared with my brother Andre. The car was not unlike a traveling gypsy styled confession booth of sorts. Tonya had turned that car into something other than an automobile. It was unique and I loved it. Those two tapes that I borrowed were The Sky's Gone Out & Burning From the Inside. I was a musical sponge then, (still am) and grabbing random LP's and tapes from my sister's room was my entry into many conflicting genres and styles. Add to that whatever tapes her friends had lying around and some fine music from my older friend Becky who took pity on a very awkward youth.

But anyway, yes, Bauhaus. Essentially you have here a group that is equal parts glam, funk, dub, Leonard Cohen, & Iggy. like most groups, this timely collection of frictional elements would turn out a diverse set that proved difficult to match when the members separated.

The elements-A baffling vocal presence that can stretch from the nasal highs of Bowie's to the godly weighted oak of Cohen with little strain. Add to that often abstract and humorous lyrics that also touched upon a strict religous upbringing. Add to this some very entertaining stage antics and good cheekbones and you have Peter Murphy.

Backwards clipped trebly distorted funk/glam guitars, forward propelling acoustic minor chord plucking, and scratchy, very scratchy percussive chicken clucking bock bock guitars and smooth washcloth vocals brought to you by Daniel Ash.

Deep burrowing earthworm dub bass and funky eye bootings courtesy of David J. (Haskins)

Old timey deadpan stickwork and five gorilla tom tom team style rhumba finess by David Haskins

Were they arty? Yes. aggressive? Most definately! Subtle? sometimes. Inventive? absolutely.
Why didn't they last? Well, shit, I guess you could argue artistic differences but I think it had more to do with the image they fostered and eventually became albatrossed by. Now why would a unique band capable of such a variety of music confine themselves to such obvious goth imagery? It proved so distracting that eventually most of the press on them at the time would talk more about what they looked like than the music contained inside. Artists that know how to play this game can often subvert these obvious tags by giving them the opposite to work with.

Consider the following examples-1. The Pixies- their LP artwork is a universe in itself- the music (which is very rock) is now alien rock, capable of untold heights. Obviously the music held its own, but still. They dressed down, completely unassuming.
Eventually the music defied categories and one could expect anything from them on future releases.
2. Joy Division. The music is really heavy and yet they are not called goth due to their wardrobe choice which was brilliant. Unassuming work clothes. Just four lads that make tunes. Incredibly overcast tunes, but still.
3. Throbbing Gristle- I love the cover to "20 Jazz Funk Greats", again, four people standing in the grass looking quite ordinary, even smiling, while delivering some completely disturbing, uncomprimising misery inside.

This might imply that I am encouraging the downplaying of self expression. Yes and no. Imagine Bauhaus all wearing brightly colored sweaters and always smiling. They'd be taking the piss obviously, but bypassing labels and expectations as well that all have to do with herd uniform aesthetics. Your weapon is then ambiguity and confusion. They sound like this yet they look like THIS. How can that be? Anyway, I'm on a tangent here, all this to say at the end of the day, their whole catalog considered, they are not nearly conservative enough to be a goth band. If possible, seek out the following tracks for samples-

1. All We Ever Wanted Was Everything 2. In Fear of Dub 3. Dark Entries 4. Kingdom's Coming 5. Third Uncle (Eno cover)

The tracklist for my sister is this-
1.Bela Lugosi Is Dead
2.Dark Entries
3.St. Vitus Dance
4.Telegram Sam
8.Night Time
9.The Passion of Lovers
10.Of Lillies & Remains
11.Kick In The Eye
12.In Fear of Fear
13.Muscle In Plastic
14.Man With The Xray Eyes
15.In Fear of Dub
17.Third Uncle
18.Silent Hedges
20.All We Ever Wanted Was Everything
21.Exquisite Corpse
22.Antonin Artaud
23.King Volcano
24.Who Killed Mr Moonlight?
25.Slice of Life
26.Kingdom's Coming
27.Here's the Dub

No comments: