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Various Artists

Goth: Music of the Shadows, Vol. 1

(K-Tel)

With the goth subculture drawing unprecedented media attention these days, the time is probably right for retrenchment. As with any interest group (sports fans, Trekkers, etc.), the idiots and extremists get all the press attention while the normal, real-world-dwelling types remain in the background, mortified and misunderstood.


As a tool for “understanding” modern goth, Music of the Shadows fails by trying to be too many things. While a few relatively contemporary acts (London After Midnight, Switchblade Symphony, Nosferatu) are represented, the bulk of the disc is given over to a spotty, under-documented history lesson. Bauhaus is present and accounted for, as are Christian Death and the Sisters of Mercy, though the Sisters’ “Walk Away” is a relatively underwhelming testament—couldn’t they license “Temple of Love” or “Alice”? More tellingly, there’s no sign of Siouxsie and the Banshees, the Mission or other contemporaries (and if you tell me they’re being saved for Volume II, I’ll slap you senseless). Little or no acknowledgement is given to the influence and ultimate crossover of (nominally) industrial acts like Skinny Puppy and Front Line Assembly, and Projekt Records’ significant influence on the scene is brushed aside far too quickly. Scattershot, poorly-proofed liner notes add to the confusion.


Of course, this is just another way of saying that my view of the genre is different from the CD compilers’ view—but constraining the disc’s focus would’ve resulted in a more cohesive compilation, rather than a disc that seems like a home-made mix tape that has risen above its station.


Still, most mix tapes have their gems, and this is no exception. The March Violets’ “Snake Dance,” included here in a moment of lucidity, is an absolute classic—possibly one of the most perfect moments in rock music. Likewise, Fields of the Nephilim’s “Preacher Man” is a good thing to own, and I get a little thrill every time 45 Grave scores a little bit of posthumous royalty money.


Music of the Shadows Vol. 1 is recommended if you flirted with goth in the mid- to late eighties, but didn’t hang onto your record collection. If you’re starting fresh, or want a proper historical framework, check out one of the other compilations on the market—or hit your thirty-something friends up for a mix tape.

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