I don’t know what brought on this movement in the 70s, but I’m glad for it: glad, because there’s gloomy music I can turn to for inspiration. Glad, because I know there’s others with dark thoughts who stick to the periphery. Outsiders. People with problems, bad complexion. (The truth is, we’ve all got problems and bad complexion.)
I was driving through the Seattle rain and watching the drains overflow at the traffic light, noting how the gray water sloshed hither and thither, when “100 Years” by The Cure came on the radio. The song starts with the line, “It doesn’t matter if we all die.” It’s the first song on the album Pornography (1982), and just goes downhill from there. If you need more, it’s part of a trilogy of records like that.
I got to wondering why I like music like this. Like Joy Division, who had the nerve to name themselves after a reference to German concentration camps, where female prisoners served the Nazi guards.
Like Beth Gibbons from Portishead, or Cat Power…Zola Jesus…singers who sound ripped in half.
I like it because you can see inside them, and they’re real. Pain is true to the human condition, shared by all of us, and rooted in the blues.
Goth music is said to start with the band Bauhaus, and for reasons I don’t understand, Anne Rice’s first book about vampires. I appreciate goths because there’s an air of theater to them and make-believe. And it takes nerve to dress up like that, to open yourself to ridicule.
There’s a guy like this in Seattle who’s hard to miss: he’s African American, six feet tall, bald, and wears an eye-patch, trench coat, boots, and what appears to be a silver prosthetic hand, with rhinestone jewels on it.
I saw him about 10 years ago on the bus and couldn’t stop staring, and then just saw him again out here in the suburbs, in Redmond, in a cross-walk last weekend. Like, he was just coming back from the library or the Whole Foods.
I’m not sure how I’d feel about it if it were my kids, but they’re welcome to my records. Pain and loneliness don’t go out of fashion. Sad songs make you feel good sometimes. All the time.