Essential listening: Cherry Red’s new “Silhouettes & Statues: A Gothic Revolution 1978-1986”

Reflecting on goth’s evolution from punk, New Model Army singer Justin Sullivan told author John Robb, in Punk Rock: An Oral History, “I think that goth was a further reaction to a failed revolution – a search for something different and dark and quasi-spiritual. It was a kind of Native American ghostdance in the face of defeat. In the Banshees, the Sisters of Mercy, Killing Joke, and all, it was a genuine search for musical creativity that responded to a new reality.”

And although New Model Army aren’t on Silhouettes and Statues – which, given the incredible breadth and depth of this new 83 track collection, is probably more an issue of rights and permissions than of oversight, because this collection has just about everything – Justin’s insight rings true. The guiding force behind Cherry Red’s new omnibus, exhaustive collection of dark postpunk is the desire to document how gothic rock, postpunk, and related subgenres evolved from the punk explosion of 1977. And at this, it does an excellent job. With comprehensive sleevenotes and a drool-worthy band list, the collection takes a peak at the cultural factors that contributed to this era and type of music. And lo and behold, I was a little surprised to find I had contributed to this compilation in a small way, too! But I’ll get to that later.

 

 

Cherry Red’s new 5 CD dark postpunk retrospective is a welcome compilation of bands that figured into the British dark music scene that grew out of punk from 1978 until 1986. Vinyl purists may wince that Silhouettes and Statues is only on CD, but with 83 tracks and 6 hours’ worth of music, this is probably the best way to release this massive thing (unless it was released digitally, sans physical media, and that would be no fun). The scope of the collection is ambitious and its content is unusually well thought-out. In fact, it’s one of the best collections of British postpunk I have come across – ever.

The physical design of the collection is great. (See the pictures in this article of my own copy.) It’s basically a hardback book filled with 47 glossy, full color pages crammed with info on bands and the history of goth as well as 5 black cardstock “pages” that serve as holders for the 5 included CDs. When I ordered the collection I was expecting a large jewel case with an enclosed CD booklet. But this really is an actual book, and it was a welcome surprise. Richard Anderson compiled the 83 tracks with help from Natasha Scharf and John Reed; Natasha also wrote the introductory sleevenotes and compiled the entries on the bands – in fact, many of the entries are brief autobiographies provided by the bands themselves. The extensive liner notes are worth the cost of the collection alone. (My own 2012 interview with the S-Haters, who are included on this collection, is quoted in the entry on S-Haters, although unfortunately I’m uncredited; likewise, the title of an article I wrote about Part 1, also in 2012 for CVLT Nation, is quoted in the information on Part 1 that is presented in their entry here, too. I’m just stoked to see Part 1 included on this collection at all; excellent!)

 

 

There’s a special focus in the collection on acts that magazines like NME and The Face called “positive punk” in the early 80s, a term invented by Richard North (who was actually Richard Cabut of Brigandage) to describe what later might be called goth-punk or early gothic rock. More accurately, these are mostly bands that served as the bridge between punk and what goth later became. (Groups like Brigandage, Southern Death Cult, Rubella Ballet, Danse Society, Ritual, Play Dead, UK Decay, and others, who are all included.) It’s in this area that the collection excels, becoming a kind of Nuggets for the early gothic rock scene.

 

Cheltenham’s Screaming Dead appear on Silhouettes and Statues and are emblematic of the collection’s aim to document the punk and postpunk roots of goth.

 

I’ve been listening to (and writing about) this stuff for a little while now, and this collection, it delights me to say, is one of the best that’s been made. Certainly it will prove to be foundational to future audiophiles interested in this chapter of music history. Silhouettes‘ compiler-in-chief, Richard Anderson, did a great job getting most of the big guns of postpunk and goth to show up: The Cure, Joy Division, The DamnedPublic Image Limited, Bauhaus, the Sisters of Mercy, Cocteau Twins, early-ish Adam and the Ants, and The Birthday Party are all here. (It’s been notoriously hard to get some of these acts to appear on any compilation that includes the word “goth”!) Of course, as with any compilation that is this ambitious, you run into issues having to do with rights and securing permissions from labels and publishing companies and that sort of thing, so there are some glaring omissions here, too — particularly Siouxsie and the BansheesKilling Joke, Sex Gang Children, and New Model Army. But this collection’s strength isn’t so much in the big names that appear as it is in the more obscure groups that Cherry Red garnered to flesh out the movement as a whole. There are some real gems that place Silhouettes and Statues above your average, lazy, cynical, cash-in goth CD collection; there is a real concern for historical accuracy and also, it seems, to introduce listeners to bands that have for too long gone neglected in the histories of postpunk in England.

 

                                                     The Birthday Party

 

    The Cure as they appeared in a 1980 issue of the postpunk fanzine Vague.

 

Specifically, I’m talking about the collection’s wise decision to include bands that came from the UK’s nascent anarcho-punk, positive punk, and horror punk (by which I mean Screaming Dead, basically) movements. These were bands that had a quintessentially goth-ish take on punk but which have been all-too-often neglected in surveys of this era. The bands I’m Dead, Gloria Mundi, Zero le Creche, and Anorexic Dread are welcome surprises. UK Decay and its related circle of bands, like Furyo and In Excelsis (and the tangentially related Ritual, with “Mind Disease”) are given a good showing. The connection to capital-G, capital-R Gothic Rock is stitched together with the compilation-shy Sisters of Mercy, Fields of the Nephilim, and Red Lorry Yellow Lorry and a few of the bands related to the Sisters: The Mission and Merciful Release acts March Violets and Salvation. Dark-leaning punk acts The Damned and Penetration (who have, along with Clock DVA, the earliest track on here, from 1978) make a welcome showing. The Batcave scene is ably represented by Specimen and Alien Sex Fiend, of course. And the more purist postpunk side of all this music is represented by PIL (with the excellently tribal “Flowers of Romance” track), Section 25, Joy Division, The Chameleons, The Associates, and Modern Eon. The bands related to Bauhaus are also well accounted for: Dali’s Car, Tones on Tail, Bauhaus themselves, and Love and Rockets weigh in with stand-out tracks. The anarcho-punks have Rubella Ballet, Part 1, and S-Haters (who included Nick Blinko of Rudimentary Peni in their lineup early on). Importantly, the part of postpunk that would go off to form the early neofolk and post-industrial scenes is also represented by way of the influential Dead Can Dance and Legendary Pink Dots. The industrial-related side of the era has a showing with Attrition and Clock DVA. I could go on… and on…. and on….

 

 

Cherry Red have produced one of the most exhaustive and in-depth collections about the postpunk and goth-related                                                         dark music scenes of England in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Cherry Red have recently been on a roll with their compilations, having chimed in with the similarly genre-defining Close To The Noise Floor: Formative UK Electronica 1975-1984 collection and the well-regarded Still In A Dream: A Story of Shoegaze 1988-1995. The label has good curatorial instincts, good curators (Anderson and Scharf, in this case), and intelligent and erudite writers working for them on the sleevenotes. Up until this collection I might have still referred listeners to Cleopatra’s Gothic Rock Vols 1 & 2 collections that, in spite of their age, are still genre-defining documents that have stood the test of time (the liner notes by longtime goth music writer Mick Mercer, of course, has added to those compilations’ continuing historical relevance). Even if Silhouettes and Shadows is limited to acts that existed in the UK, it’s still such a powerful collection that it may be my new go-to referral for folks interested in dark postpunk and goth music, and in influences that proved pertinent to American deathrock, as well. And if Cherry Red wants any help on the US version of this compilation, they know where to find me….

Cherry Red’s Silhouettes and Statues: A Gothic Revolution 1978-1986 collection is out now.

 

Below is the track list:

DISC ONE

Joy Division Shadowplay
The Birthday Party Release The Bats
Rema-Rema Rema-Rema
Paranoia Shattered Glass
Section 25 Charnel Ground
The Sisters Of Mercy Floorshow
Clock DVA The Female Mirror
UK Decay The Black Cat
Alien Sex Fiend Dead And Re-Buried
Love And Rockets Seventh Dream Of Teenage Heaven
The Associates Q Quarters
In Excelsis Carnival Of The Gullible
Nevilluxury Feels Like Dancing Wartime
Flesh For Lulu Vaguely Human
The March Violets Crow Baby
All About Eve D For Desire
Folk Devils Beautiful Monster

DISC TWO

Public Image Ltd Flowers of Romance
Danielle Dax Bed Caves
Southern Death Cult Moya
1919 Caged
The Cure The Hanging Garden
S-Haters Solitary Habit
Dead Can Dance The Arcane
Years On Earth Saving Face
In The Nursery Breach Birth
Play Dead The Tenant
Part 1 Ghost
13th Chime Cuts Of Love
The Tempest Ice Cold in
Screaming Dead Night Creatures
Bushido Among The Ruins
Portion Control Fiends
Actifed Creation

                                              UK Decay

DISC THREE

Adam And The Ants Tabletalk
Balaam And the Angel The Darklands
The Legendary Pink Dots Love Puppets
Artery Into The Garden
Salvation Girlsoul
The Chameleons In Shreds
Schleimer K Fugitive Kind
The Bolshoi By The River
Gene Loves Jezebel Screaming (For Emmalene)
Lowlife Gallery Of Shame
And Also The Trees Out Of The Moving Life Of Circles
Siiiii Is Still
Tabathas Nightmare Heroin (Live At The Batcave)
Brigandage Angel Of Vengeance
Penetration Stone Heroes
The Rose Of Avalanche LA Rain

                                                                    The Chameleons

DISC FOUR

Furyo Legacy
The Mission Stay With Me
Nico Saeta
In Camera Fragments Of Fear
Dance Chapter Anonymity
Ausgang Sink Into You
Cocteau Twins In Our Angelhood
Sunglasses After Dark Morbid Silence
Fields Of The Nephilim Trees Come Down (Original Version)
Anorexic Dread Tracey’s Burning
Red Lorry Yellow Lorry Take It All
Tones On Tail Burning Skies
Blood And Roses Spit Upon Your Grave
Threat Lullaby In C
I’m Dead Storm Pause
Zero Le Creche Last Year’s Wife

                                                          Blood and Roses

 

DISC FIVE

Bauhaus Stigmata Martyr
The Wake Patrol
Specimen Returning From A Journey
Theatre Of Hate Original Sin
Attrition Birthrite
Sad Lovers and Giants Things We Never Did
The Damned Dr Jeckyl And Mr Hyde
Gloria Mundi The Hill
Dali’s Car His Box
Inca Babies The Diseased Stranger’s Waltz
Death Cult Ghost Dance
Modern Eon Euthenics
Ritual Mind Disease
Skeletal Family She Cries Alone
Bone Orchard Jack
Hula Ghost Rattle
Rubella Ballet Twister

 

                                                                                    The Damned in 1980

 

 

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The Author

Oliver Sheppard

Oliver Sheppard

Oliver Sheppard is a writer from Texas. He's been writing for CVLT Nation for over 5 years. He's also written for Maximum Rock-n-Roll, Bandcamp.com, Souciant, and others. He started the Radio Schizo podcast in the early days of podcasting (2005) and began the Wardance and Funeral Parade event nights in Dallas and Austin, respectively, in 2012. He is the author of the upcoming nonfiction book Theda Bara in Her Own Words.