Review: Silhouettes & Statues: A Gothic Revolution 1978-1986

Silhouettes & Statues: A Gothic Revolution 1978-1986 (Cherry Red Records).
Silhouettes & Statues: A Gothic Revolution 1978-1986 (Cherry Red Records).

There can't have been many musical cults much more maligned over the years than gothic rock.

The black garb, the backcombed hair, the gloomy-sounding music - all its components made it an easy target for those seeking to poke fun.

But the new sub-genre - known as goth, for short - certainly left its mark on the musical landscape in the post-punk years.

Compared to the early energy of punk, the music was often dirge-like, with much darker lyrics, and built around heavy bass, tribal drumming or electronic beats.

Like most youth crazes, it started underground, and fairly rapidly made its way into the mainstream.

'Goths', as those who enjoyed the new music quickly became known, even had a club in London, The Batcave, which they could call their own, and escape the derision of those who sought to mock them.

Though the term 'gothic rock' had been applied in the '60s to the likes of The Doors and Nico, one of the first bands associated with the movement which emerged at the tail end of the '70s were Joy Division, whose classic Shadowplay kicks off this 5CD set.

Bauhaus, who re-released their 1979 classic Bela Lugosi's Dead in 1982, were one of the first goth bands to be featured on TV, and they're represented too, with Stigmata Martyr.

Indeed most of the scene's big names are covered; Nick Cave's pre-Bad Seeds band The Birthday Party, The Sisters Of Mercy, Alien Sex Fiend, Fields Of The Nephilim, The Damned, and Play Dead to name just a few.

Sadly, some other notables - Siouxsie and the Banshees, Lords Of The New Church and The Cramps, to name just three - are conspicuous by their absence, presumably due to licensing issues.

Some of the groups who have made the cut went on to enjoy considerable commercial success, such as The Cure, All About Eve, The Mission, The Damned (who'd already made their name as one of the first punk bands) and Cocteau Twins.

The Southern Death Cult had to change their name to Death Cult and then The Cult, becoming a more mainstream rock band along the way, before enjoying their turn in the spotlight.

But for every band who became household names, there were many more who didn't, and some of them are represented here. Who remembers 1919, S-Haters, Screaming Dead or Threat?

No, me neither, but mere mention of them will probably stir long-forgotten recollections in the minds of those who were deeply immersed in the scene, and some of the music's not bad either.

This collection includes a few bands who you might argue weren't goth at all, like Public Image Limited, Adam And The Ants, The Chameleons, and Penetration. But what they have in common with those who did belong is that for part of their existence, at least, they were on the periphery of what was considered the mainstream.

Like all Cherry Red's compilations, Silhouettes & Statues includes lavish notes on all the bands covered, with many written by members themselves. For anyone who was part of the scene at the time, or latecomers who are curious to know more, this is a great place to start. 7/10.