CD Review

V/A - Gothic Rock 3 - "Black on Black"

By Haydn Black

Various Artists
Jungle Records (1998)

"Pray, tell me innkeeper," I said, "That frightening building I spy atop the hill, lit by moonlight. What is that thing?" "
You don't want to go up there Sir, least not until sun-up. That be the bouncey Gothic castle."
- Mick Mercer

Mick Mercer's dusted off his tape machine for this, the third, in the fairly well received Gothic Rock series.

Subtitled variously "80s Indie-Chart Hits!" and "Best of 80s Collection" it's a double compilation (although the second disc is described a bonus. Not a free bonus, but singles which didn't do so well in the charts).

The usual suspects from earlier entries in this series are here; Bauhaus ('The Passion of Lovers' ), The Cult ('Spiritwalker'), Play Dead ('The Tenant') and Alien Sex Fiend (the chronically overplayed 'I Walk The Line').

As Mercer notes in his 12 page booklet, packed with Merceresque witticism and observations, the 80s was goth's heyday, and for the main part of the decade the indie scene was dominated by bands who we would now dub goth.

These days no one would classify Sexbeat's 'Sweat' or Actified's 'Crucifixion' as goth. But they are, and when presented among their peers its an undeniable fact of nature as to why.

This is music from the days before sterility. Or so it seems now. I have no doubt it was different then, but there's just something unique about Specimen and Cuddly Toys which makes me feel there will never be their like again.

Creaming Jesus are a noticeable festering boil on this compilation, not because their massacre of the seminal 'A Forest' will have sensible virgins running for the hills, nor for the fact that Robert Smith and cronies probably get a giggle out of the whole affair, but because the song wasn't recorded in 1990.

Pedantic? Yes, I am. But I'm also right.

High points on this compilation include Field of the Nephilim's 'Blue Water,' Danse Society's 'Somewhere' and 1919's 'Cry Wolf.'

It's nice to see some of the more obscure acts such as Rubella Ballet and Ritual being dusted off, because they are what make compilations like these worth it - especially when so many of these tracks have been released on 'In Goth Daze' or 'The Whip.'

I suppose the main thing about this CD, when we look back on the last decade, is the array of eclectic talent on offer. While there's a thread running through these tracks which hindsight allows me to see, it puts to shame many of the 90s compilations.

There's a freshness here, a youthful enthusiasm. There's something in the voice (not too many cookie monster vocals here, McCoy excluded), something in the guitar which rises these bands, forgotten by history as they have been, from other bands, who may have enjoyed for success at the time, but have no following now, and whose records languish within the seemingly endless half price bins at your local vinyl emporium next to copies of Elton John's 'Caribou.'

If these bands are playing by any rules or established conventions they're no longer evident in my era. They've stood the test of time, and that should be enough to please anyone.

There's a thematic rightness which places New Model Army on the same disc as Danielle Dax, or has Bone Orchard rubbing shoulders with Turkey and the Wild Dogs.

And that's alright with me.

Fuck the 90s, lets reboot the decade.

ADDENDUM: If my knowledge is correct, Cleopatra have also released this compilation, which an altered track listing. In addition to rearranging the tracks they have removed tracks by Sex Gang Children ('Sebastiane') and Marc Almond/Andi Sex-Gang ('The Hungry Years') replacing them with Into A Circle ('Inside Out') and Zero Le Creche ('Last Years Wife').

The Damned ('13th Floor Vendetta') has been replaced with Rosetta Stone ('If Only And Sometimes' - another 90s track).

The reasons for this decision can only be speculated, however for those people who do not have the 'Undead: 50 Gothic Hits' boxed set the addition of Into A Circle is indeed a benefit.

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