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Various - Silhouettes & Statues: A Gothic Revolution 1978-1986 album review

Landmark goth motherlode spreads its web

Cover art for Various - Silhouettes & Statues: A Gothic Revolution 1978-1986 album

Although often wrongly dismissed as fancy-dress indulgence, the gothic rock uprising can now be seen as the next major step from punk, its dark artistic tentacles descended from The Doors, Alice Cooper and Suicide reaching deep enough to become a major shape-shifting influence on rock in the 80s.

As Natasha Scharf’s introduction to the 25-page hardback book shrouding this major retrospective says, goth was about “introspection, intellectualism and passion… inspired by film, philosophy, literature and mythology”. To make that point, its five CDs kick off with Joy Division and the Birthday Party, while others sprinkle PiL, Bauhaus, Danielle Dax, The Damned, Nico, Sisters Of Mercy, The Cure, Cocteau Twins, Associates, Adam And The Ants, The Mission, Theatre Of Hate, Fields Of The Nephilim and Southern Death Cult among lesser-resonant names who raided mum’s make-up box and posed for pictures in graveyards (step up Screaming Dead, Bone Orchard and I’m Dead).

Although monolithic trailblazers Siouxsie And The Banshees are conspicuous by their absence, this set crucially acknowledges the fabled Batcave as the movement’s irreverent birthplace, including Specimen, Alien Sex Fiend and Flesh For Lulu, who demonstrate how subtle black humour and glam excess were essential in keeping goth from descending into pompous pantomime, and how it also presented a great excuse to have fun dressing up.

Certainly no nostalgic fad celebration, this epic collection is more like a stellar overview of the last century’s more vibrant and often overlooked darker-hued rock, cast among a hell-spawned panoply of lesser-known pranksters.

Kris Needs is a British journalist and author, known for writings on music from the 1970s onwards. Previously secretary of the Mott The Hoople fan club, he became editor of ZigZag in 1977 and has written biographies of stars including Primal Scream, Joe Strummer and Keith Richards. He's also written for MOJO, Record Collector, Classic Rock, Prog, Electronic Sound, Vive Le Rock and Shindig!