THE FLOWERPOT MEN “Jo’s So Mean (To Josephine)”
The duo of cellist Adam Peters and synth op Ben Watkins made their blip on the ’80s radar with a song that ended up on the soundtrack to Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (“Beat City”). Prior to that, they released three EPs of electronic propulsive club tracks, but this grinding little number about a dysfunctional (possibly same-sex) relationship owes more to Suicide’s legendary “Frankie Teardrop” or Ministry’s Twitch album, than the boo-scary vertical hair scene. The things that sound like electric guitars may very well be Peters’ cello ramped up and overmodulated with a tone that most of your American noise-rock outfits would kill/die to achieve. These days, industrial-rock rivetheads probably have two or three CDs of Watkins’ more recognizable project, Juno Reactor, but this writer remembers hearing this in clubs while trying to pick up Lillian Munster clones by offering them Sobranie Cocktail cigarettes.
INCA BABIES “Opium Den”
Most of the high-maintenance goths of the ’80s dismissed these Mancunians as an uninspired rip off of the Birthday Party, the seminal outfit that gave the world Nick Cave. But if you ever heard the Inca Babies on a playlist after any song by the Cramps (which is how I got contaminated by them), the Babies make perfect sense on this list. Since their ’80s heyday, the band reformed in 2007, released a single for U.K. Record Store Day in 2012, and released two albums, Death Message Blues (2010) and 2012’s Deep Dark Blue. And they’re always gonna be cooler than whatever pomade-abusing Americana act Paste is going to meow about.
JAMES T. PURSEY “Eyes Shine Killidiscope”
Mr. Pursey is well known as the frontman for first-gen Brit poonks Sham 69. But this track (recorded for the crucial goth compilation The Batcave: Young Limbs And Numb Hymns) is pretty great with Pursey’s kinda-creepy vocals, a lone drum kit accompaniment and slightly sped-up demonette vocals. For some reason, this piece is capable of sending people who are baked into hysterical laughter or running for their lives. Which means it’s cool as hell, obviously.
THE VENOMETTES “Dance Of Death”
Another great one from that aforementioned Batcave compilation, this string ensemble should be embraced by folks whose tastes in goth tend to veer closer to Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights than, say, Beetlejuice. Anne Stephenson, Audrey Riley and Gini Ball were classically trained students who dug hanging out in the Batcave and listening to the new sounds. They wisely thought the audiences would dig what they were doing, so they started a string ensemble and ended up being club staples and in-demand session players. The ladies went on to form other bands, as well as contribute to recordings by folks like German avant-rock figure Holger Czukay, Siouxsie And The Banshees and Marc Almond’s post-Soft Cell project, Marc And The Mambas. The Venomettes helped instill the notion that like punk, “gothic” isn’t a specific genre, but a way of thinking.
SEX GANG CHILDREN “Into The Abyss”
Another band that sound more concerned about punk than posturing, the Sex Gang Children liked to get all spooky, but they also brought a furious, crashing rock sensibility to their darkness. Andi Sexgang’s sneering, psychopathic-mincing vocal makes him one of post-punk’s unheralded characters. I listen to this track decades after the fact, and his vocals and the drunken tribal drum beat still sound as hard on the ears as ever—and I say that in the most loving, fuck-yeah way possible. Does anybody still attempt this kind of thing anymore?
Suggested Track: “Wrak”
This full album gets a nod by virtue of its ability to put a modern veneer on what exactly constitutes goth, ca. 2013 and beyond. The music on Grimoire takes assorted stylistic turns (moody rock, melancholy string ensembles, minimal jazz, room-clearing harsh electronics), creating that sense of darkness that’s integral to the genre. Kreng is the moniker of composer/arranger/keyboardist/synth operator Pepijn Caudron, whose work can enhance a tragic love story or a splatter film, or dilate your pupils and your cervix. Play it loud while handing out candy at Halloween, and parents will knock it out of their kids’ hands, under the suspicion you poisoned it. ALT