Saturday, March 9, 2013

Is Goth (Music) Dead?

Goth is dead. Punk is dead. Everything we love is dead and gone, there's no point in trying to participate or revive it because it is dead and nothing will ever compare. Surely you know Goths who live by this mantra. Maybe you are one. Either way, it's a pretty prevalent attitude in our subculture that Goth is somehow past its prime. I won't wait until after my intro to express my opinion on this: I think it's a steaming load of nonsense. However, while discussing how a subculture can be considered "dead" with a friend, an interesting question was raised. If Goth isn't dead, maybe the music is dead? And that is a question I'd like to explore with you all today.


I have this subtle voice in the back of my head that likes to snark at people, and it and I often have these little dialogues about people and their finicky tastes. One day, this little voice told me, in his infinite wisdom, that people hate not being consulted about change. Think about it. When a website changes the layout, when a band explores a new sound, when Aquanet changes the formula, when a fashion label chooses a new direction, everyone who was a fan of the original stamps their feet and says "Nonononono." Sometimes, there is a lot of justification for this, sometimes it's just a knee-jerk. Changes mean adjustments, adjustments mean that everything else has to slow down or come to a complete standstill while we reorient ourselves. In these cases, people have a right to be somewhat annoyed.

I think it boils down to one essential fact: we like to be consulted before changes are made to our lives. And, unthinkable horrors, the Goth music scene has changed. And no one consulted the Goths. The music scene moved on from its roots in the late seventies and early eighties, some of the most popular bands continuing to produce and record new music up until the turn of the millennium. You can still hear Goths who were spooking around in the mid-nineties when I was in diapers lamenting about how awful the scene was. Opinionated music bloggers dismiss Peter Murphy's new solo work and call The Cure's Bloodflowers and 4:13 Dream a waste of time. How dare they try to move on as an artist and not keep rehashing the same style, subject matter, and image from thirty years ago! The nerve of them.

An aside: It is completely reasonable to like a band's older sounds because you, you know, like the type of music and older sounds better. However, this very "hipster" mentality that you should like things before they were cool, and can only appreciate a band's older sound (before they got popular and changed, man) is more than a little bit ridiculous.

So, as people continue to whine about it, they listen to the older music. Over. And over. And over again. (You don't even want to know how many plays Twenty-Four Hours has on my iTunes.) While not an active club goer myself, I've heard tell from others that some Goth club DJs even have lists of music that they Will Not Play because they're sick of hearing it over and over and over again. However, it does not seem that there are many (or any at all) new bands taking on the moniker and actively trying to produce Goth music. Why?

I think it's probably a combination of a few issues. Firstly, this bizarre gate-keeping mentality that exists among Goths. I've written about it before, but essentially if certain Goths continue to shoot down every single person who put the Goth label on something not traditionally labeled Goth, you can't expect that many new people will want to try to claim it. It's not worth the hassle to try to carve your way into a niche that is so firmly closed off against you. Some will say to this that they're not gate-keeping, but that Goth music is an actual genre with definitions and none of these new bands fit the definition. Putting aside for a moment the fact that no one can decide what the traits of Goth music are (complicated by the artists having hissy fits about it and the staggering variety of bands that are associated with Goth, including ones that fit just as well under the New Wave or Post Punk genres), I take issue with this declaration. 

But that's not all. Believe it or not, I'm willing to bet that even the most hardcore modern Goth musicians would want to personalize and grow their genre rather than being an entirely faithful Joy Division coverband or what have you. Rehashing the same material again and again stagnates a subculture, it doesn't revive it, and it makes for a pretty boring living (or none at all, being as many Goths would rather go see some of the performers live than see a cover band of them.) So, more new artists are cropping up in the genres that branched off of Goth, experimenting with the new sounds (especially of synthesizers) and influences of a twenty-first century music experience. It's generally accepted that they are not Goth, but something else, and anyone who says otherwise is shouted at and driven off. And Goth music continues to stagnate or, dare I say it? Lay dead in a ditch.

But, it depends how you see it. If people still listen to Goth music, is the genre dead? Is it like a species being considered extinct because there aren't enough individuals to support the population? Can I keep the whole Goth music scene alive with an iPod filled with Sisters of Mercy and Specimen? Do all the performers who originally played Goth music have to be dead, too? How do you describe a dead music scene? What say you readers? Is Goth music really dead?

17 comments:

  1. It's very much undead, we've just yet to realise it in America. Here's a website dedicated to Gothic Rock of the last decade as well as emerging bands and revives:

    http://www.thisisgothicrock.com/

    Check out Angels of Liberty(<3 this band), The Eden House, Brotherhood, Christine Plays Viola and Lebanon Hanover.

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    1. Ahh, thank you for the link! I'll bookmark it for perusal later. :)

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  2. I say NO, it's NOT dead, and I agree with almost everything you said here.

    True, I'm not a card-carrying "Goth Music Expert", and I haven't been listening to goth music since the 70s or even 80s, but I know what kinds of music have (at least for me) a goth FEEL to them when I hear them, and they don't all have to be officially labeled "goth", either. Some are old and some are new. I listen to Sisters of Mercy, The Cruxshadows, Switchblade Symphony, Blutengel and Adrian von Ziegler, and I consider them ALL to be of the goth genre, even though not everyone does (including some of them). Why? Because when I listen to their music, it hits that dark spot within that nothing else can touch, and I want to put on my spiked collar, fishnets and leather, and go dancing with Edgar Allen Poe until the sun comes up. ;-)

    Bella Lugosi may be dead, but goth music is not.

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    1. I think that's a good way to think about it, especially when there are such differences in opinion about what the Goth genre really is. Maybe it's just best if we call something Goth if it feels Goth--but then there's the problem of "MY CHEMICAL ROMANCE IS THE GOTHEST BAND EVER" which raises some more interesting questions. :)

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    2. Good point. In that case, maybe we could all try voicing our opinions AS opinions, rather than as statements of absolute fact. Hmmm, what a concept... ;-)

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  3. I disagree on the "it does not seem that there are many (or any at all) new bands taking on the moniker and actively trying to produce Goth music." There are plenty of bands that both continue on the old style of Trad-Goth/Post-Punk either mimicking (but not covering) the sound of bands like The Sisters or are taking the older style in their own direction. Those bands are just a bit harder to find (though with the internet that shouldn't be. Not to mention in such a modern day it isn't as if we'll find these bands extremely popular in pop-culture.

    But anyway, it was a interesting and thought-provoking post. :3

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    1. You're right, I think a comment about those kinds of bands being prevalent, rather than existing at all, would have been more appropriate. Thank you.

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  4. you cannot kill what is unliving =P

    also, cauda pavonis, rhombus, dawn of elysium, berlin black, zeitgeist zero, quasimodo, the last cry, just a few names touring around the uk at moment.

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  5. I do not know how others read this post, but I interpreted it that Mary Rose was not actually saying that here aren't any new bands, but that it seems that in every goth community there is some opinion-leader who's claiming as a truth something like "only things before the year 1986 are worth anything". :)

    On the other hand it is only natural, because the smaller the subculture, the harder it itself guards the definition of itself. Otherwise it could be slowly extinct, fused into the main culture or evolved into something else. As Mary Rose said, people do not like change that is not from them.

    I got slightly annoying (or funny) anecdote about music scene. I joined a couple of months ago to this club. In the name it is said that it is for all that like "darker" or "heavier" music genres, meaning basically anything darker than plain rock. In reality there is a strict hierarchy and basically it seems that the only "real" music is either 80's heavy that is made by men with long beards (the facial hair seems to be extremely important) or some doom metal bands. I myself do not like 80's heavy, it does not hit that dark spot inside me. Frankly I think they all sound the same, but can't say that aloud in the club, can I. :)

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  6. I listen to the old goth music (like the cure, sisters of mercy,..) , and to what's called now goth (metal). I listen to quite a lot of things.
    But I agree that it is a bit dead. Not many people listen to the old goth music anymore. They don't even know sometimes who the cure is!

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  7. This is an extremely important and well written post, thank you! I think that its important to acknowledge that as a 30+ year old subculture, goth really has seen its fair share of evolution. From the original Batcave UK days, to the late 80's new wave/Cure-mania, to the inception and popularity of NIN and the influence of a mainstream/ "mall goth" in the late 90's and early 2000's (ie. the hot topic days), to the boom in interest in cybergoth/ebm to the point where thats really all clubs play these days. What's happening now in goth I think is just another evolution. I live in Southern California, and it seems like there is a really supportive environement for new goth music, most of which is definately more influenced by first wave goth bands than most of the material that has come out in the goth scene in the last 10 years. I think the advent of the nu-goth, or hipster goth, or whatever has influenced the contemporary goth scene a lot, for better and for worse. While its true that its annoying that this "trend" means finding skeleton tshirts in F21, it also has brought a lot of influence from other kinds of music and art into the goth scene, such as minimal, experimental, psychedelic, even hip-hop, in ways that are fresh yet still embody the gothic aesthetic. The argument against hipster goths or whatever is that these kids are inauthentic and don't "get" what "real" goth is about, and while thats true for some people just jumping the ship for the fashion or whatever, I feel like a lot of these kids are interested in a darker aesthetic because that's what speaks to them, and are influenced by goth bands and the goth aesthetic, but feel limited by the current state of goth and are involved maybe in other scenes (art world, punk, indie, whatever). A lot of the best goth music I've heard in the past few years hasn't been at the clubs, but at DIY venues where the crowd is a mix of folks. I personally love this nu-goth trend in music because to me it hits a lot closer to what I consider to be *really* gothic. It's moody and ethereal and lofi and somehow makes you feel like you are in a basement and a forest at the same time. Just my 2 cents!

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    1. "makes you feel like you are in a basement and a forest at the same time" this is expletive inducingly awesome! beautiful line =)

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  8. Somehow, i believe that when some of the new and experimenting bands will start getting old, they finally will have gained their legitimity in the minds and tastes of the defenders of the "before was better" mentality. And by then, we will be the old goths... and maybe (i hope not but you never know), we will be the ones having difficulties adapting to the new scene.
    But we'll have brought new things in our time : goth music is not dead, it just takes very (very) long for something innovative to become fully accepted. The renewal cycle of Goth music is indeed substantially longer than other genres. But it exists.
    Who said Goths had a thing for what's derelict?

    Constance

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  9. Listening to HIM, which I thought I would hate, and would sound like... like.... the sound of children running to Hot Topic.... I realized.... I realized....... That they reminded me of both Sisters of Mercy, and, more notably, Clan of Xymox! :O (nuh-uh! no way!) Yup, I swear, it's true.

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  10. We love this article! It's been featured in SBM best of the web roundup here http://www.sincerelyboots.com/2013/04/best-of-web-february-march-round-up.html :)

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  11. In the words of Peter Murphy at one of his latest shows: "Goth is so dead it should be called Moth."

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  12. SERAFINI - mirabel project

    http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=EqKgowjrPMM

    We're not "dead", we're in "b'tween"

    this project takes an hour, so wait until you have the time to relax and trip.






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