There is a tendency to talk about such cool, dark and clinical music such as that found on Image merely in relation to a certain circle of bands who, driven by new technologies, new attitudes and new musical visions in the wake of the UK punk explosion, created a sound that reflected their stark, generally northern, surroundings. But such music, such art, such imagery has always feed a certain appetite in modern culture. From gothic romantic poets, Victorian horror novelists, Nosferatu’s black and white film appearance through to the dark Dionysian shamanism of The Doors, the post-punk experimentalist and on into the boom of comic book culture, cosplay and video games, society feeds off of it.
It comes as no surprise to find out that the lives and career of the people who make music as The Venus Fly Trap are intrinsically linked to those of fellow explorers of dark music, Bauhaus. Same home town, same art college, same gigging circuit, Kevin Haskins was even to be found as their producer from time to time.
Haskins just signed on as a music supervisor and producer for the new project, entitled FOXES Television, created by mother and son duo Tina and Julian de la Celle, founders of the rock ‘n’ roll music and men’s fashion-focused FOXES Magazine.
FOXES TV aims to fill a huge void, where once there was exciting music programming, such as The Tube and MTV, and also include men’s fashion. The aesthetic of FOXES Magazine will be placed firmly on the screen, showcasing new bands and men’s fashion, interviews, and behind the scenes footage with a very cinematic look.
Stock in the Bauhaus name is riding high at the moment. With one half of the band currently working as Poptone and David J undertaking an extensive world tour with Pete Murphy as we speak, it is certainly the perfect time to re-release J’s sophomore solo album, a record which he describes as “ a personal pastoral favourite” and one “that really set the tone for all my future solo endeavours.” And pastoral is indeed a great word to use even if it is hardly one that you would associate with either Bauhaus or Love and Rockets, the band that he would shortly form.
Crocodile Tears is certainly of its time, it sounds of its mid 80’s birthplace both in style and production but like any album which stays in the collective consciousness long enough to be labelled classic, iconic or influential, and this has been called all this and more, it has survived and transcended fad and fashion. Like black and white movies, favourite shirts and old photographs there is a hint of nostalgia to the songs found here from the point of the listener, how could there not be but also enough time has passed that a whole new generation can engage with it without the baggage that it carries. But you only have to listen to how ahead of its time songs such as Light and Shade are to see why it has survived. I could name 5 modern alt-country bands who would kill to have that on their resume.
Songs wander from the classic singer songwriter such as the folky Justine to the smooth soulful lines of the title track, the Lilac Time-esque fey-pop jaunt of Too Clever By Half to the shimmering sixties vibes of Slip The Rope. It is a vast departure from his earlier, darker band days but to many people, myself included, it was destined for more spins around the house than the more challenging Bauhaus back catalogue. And for those who found this an unexpected departure at the time, hindsight now tells us that a reunion with Daniel Ash in the form of Love and Rockets and all the glitz and glamour, punch and panache which that entailed was just around the corner.
This year marks 40 years since the formation of Bauhaus. To mark this occasion, founding member David J has announced two one-off solo UK concerts, to occur in between several festival dates with Bauhaus vocalist Peter Murphy and their newly-announced world tour. The second of these shows, ‘Back to Beck (The Crucible of ‘Bela Lugosi’s Dead’), is a historic intimate event preceded by a larger London date.
Perry Farrell of Jane’s Addiction once described David J as the Avant of the Avant-garde, with good reason. Since Bauhaus disbanded in 1983, David has enjoyed a long and varied solo career. The first of Bauhaus’ members to actively step outside of the comfort zone of his original band, he released his debut album ‘Etiquette of Violence’ that same year and has since released numerous solo albums, founded the hugely successful Love and Rockets, produced and played bass with The Jazz Butcher, and joined the reformed Bauhaus again twice for world tours.
Any band worth their salt should be able to fill a book with anecdotes and stories of their touring and recording life, one that is a flame for moth-like fans and at least piques the interest of the more general reader. Any band, after even a few years on the road, who can’t fill such pages with tales of high-jinx and shenanigans would have to face some serious questions about their suitability for their chosen career.
Bauhaus, as you would imagine, are a band more than up to the task, as proven by Kevin Haskins new book, Bauhaus – Undead. The Northampton four piece always stood out, from their genre defining sound to their iconic look and right from receiving their first reviews in the local paper, drummer Haskins became the bands archivist. The book looks back at their 70’s/80’s heyday (as well as their Coachella reunion in 2005) and takes the form of a collection of amazing photographs as well as artwork for posters and flyers, there are backstage passes, handwritten lyrics, setlist, personal notes and even a Bauhaus comic strip all linked together by Haskins poignant and amusing text.
It charts the band’s rise from art-school dreamers through playing guerrilla gigs…they supported The Pretenders, without them even knowing…to the release of Bela Lugosi’s Dead which put them on the map and launched a scene which endures to this day, and finally bowing out devoid of fanfare. Somewhat ironic for a band long accused by the press of over the top melodrama and pretentious theatrics!
It goes without saying that this is a must for any fan of Bauhaus, the gothic sound, eighties alternative scenes or underground music in general. The book’s layout and design matches the bands stripped down aesthetic and art school origins but also signposts just how influential their mercurial blends of punk-gothique, reggae, dub, psychedelia and horror film soundtrack where to bands who followed. Everyone from Massive Attack to Sigur Ros and from Interpol to The Smashing Pumpkins have worshipped at their musical alter. More than that it will be the coolest book to be found on a coffee table anywhere in the Western Hemisphere!
Available from Cleopatra Music and Film HERE
No matter what anyone tells you about current musical fashions, what the zeitgeist might happen to be blowing in from cooler taste making circles, what the papers say is the next big thing or any of that sort of rhetoric, one thing never changes. The underground, the outside, the left field, the other…call it what you will, is always a far more interesting place.
It eschews common consent, public opinion and the approval of the masses and just makes music for itself. How great is that? And proof that it remains the case to this day is Mary and The Ram’s arty, electro-punk disco dirge, The Cross. It recalls some of the greats of the outside curve, it updates Bauhaus, sits next to Nick Cave on the piano stool, squeezes the high drama and cliche out of The Sisters of Mercy but wanders the same sonic underworld. The Dream takes things even further into the Murphy – Cave axis of blasted blues meets electronic-gothica, somehow feeling like a spoken word aria from their twisted, co-joined pens.
It is electronic rock dancing a sultry and sensual tango with industrial electro-pop across a shaded and empty dance floor, it is primal urges caressing modern technology, old school experimentation getting frisky with future possibilities. And when the bored kids sat around the edge of the club sarcastically shout, “get a room,” they do and this is the result!
The Arthur Rackham illustration on the cover of Nasty Little Lonely’s latest musical outing should give some idea to the uninitiated of what lies within. The dark fairy tale nature of the artwork reflects the juxtaposition of the industrial-gothic music vibe that the band does so well with the often-girlish yet sometimes sinister and warped vocals of Charlie Beddoes. But those in the know have been here before and relish these nightmarish soundtracks and broken dreamscapes.
And whilst the term gothic now seems to have been re-appropriated into just another sub-genre of metal by a generation who want to live in the Sunnydale of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, this gloriously grim gang manage to pull referential strands from the older, darker heart of the punk-gothique and industrial genres. Snake Oil is a wash of darkwave patterns that Bauhaus would have sold their soul for, if indeed one could have been found, and around this understated centrepiece they build their dark-art.
Tribal rock beats power on growling bass lines and wilfully savage razor cuts of guitar and between defined musical structures eerie atmospherics and Stygian sounds vie for attention and the end result is a heavy, claustrophobic and nebulous musical collection. Few do it better, it unites the dark hearted followers of earlier musical ages with todays children of a colder, more clinical night and as always this latest atramentous crusade has not only had me turning to the thesaurus for suitable descriptive words but is yet another fantastic set of songs by them.
Rack and Ruin is out on 22nd April.