By Wil Forbis
(Let me start
this out by admitting that my knowledge of Goth music is quite limited,
so if I offend any of you pale faced Trenchcoat Mafiosos, just fly back
to your cave and hang upside for 24 hours and everything should be all
For reasons that escape
me, I picked a copy of the Saigon Kick album, “Saigon Kick” recently.
Perhaps it was because the cassette was selling for a quarter, or perhaps
it stirred some dim memories of my yearlong stay in Hollywood (1990-91,
Saigon Kick were probably experiencing their heyday around then.) Whatever
the case, I laid down my two bits and returned, trophy in hand to my
apartment. Upon playing the audio chronicle, I was somewhat surprised.
I expected the music to be straight ahead hard rock of the AC/DC, Shotgun
Messiah variety, (with perhaps less of a blues influence) and for the
most part that’s what “Saigon Kick” is. However, one cannot help but
detect another flavor floating around in the mix. It is true that Saigon
Kick seemed to empathize darkness in their appearance, black hair, black
leather, but it was a vague allusion to the sounds of The Church in
their music, or even Dead Can Dance, that finally illuminated it for
me: Saigon Kick were essentially a cross-genre group, combining elements
of both eighties era Goth (The Church, Cure etc…) with the darker sides
of eighties metal (Priest, Maiden, Post-Ozzy Sabbath)
“Hah!” I chuckled to myself.
How ironic that two sub groups whom hated each other (batcavers and
metalhedz) would create such offspring. Robert Smith must have been
rolling over in his coffin and Ozzy Osbourne was probably choking on
his daily bat head. I smirked at the irony.
However, at that point my
50 year old conspiracy theorist landlady took the time to enter my apartment
and say, “Actually, Mr. Forbis, quite a few musical acts have successfully
merged elements of gothic rock and heavy metal. The Cult, Gene Love
Jezebel, Christian Death and even Faster PussyCat have successfully
combined elements of both genres. Your sarcasm is unfounded and your
rent is due!”
“Woman!” I fumed. “I pay
you quite handsomely to insure that these sorts of intrusions do not
occur. When your sexual services are required you shall be summoned!”
She was right of course.
Every genre of music has at some point formed a collaboration with its
nemesis. Obviously both metal and Goth have a certain love with death
and emotional decay. It would be only natural that they would team up
on both superficial (Faster Pussycat’s “we’re Goth to the point of dying
our hair black”) and more substantial levels (Saigon Kick employed a
great deal of angst ridden lyrics next to their Yngview solos.)
And who can forget the Cult.
In my sophomore year of high school, the Cult were, as you say in America,
“the shit.” We’re talking around the "Electric" album here,
"Love Removal Machine," "Wild Flower" and all that.
So popular they, that with my burgeoning interest in music I was forced
to play two Cult songs just to be included in the local high school
bands. At first I was reticent, preferring Devo and AC/DC, but eventually
the songs grew on me.
The Cult’s rock side was
easy to see. Most of their songs were watered down Bad Company riffs,
sans keyboards, with a little more of a “Clash” fervor. And their Goth
side was apparent in their themes of death and tribal imagery. Singer
Ian Astbury was apparently fascinated by themes of Native American spiritualism.
(Where have we heard that before? Cough… Jim Morrison… cough.) The band
had started out with the darker sounding moniker, “The Southern Death
Cult,” before wisely deciding that it sounded gay and switching to the
more memorable “The Cult.” Even their name carried familiar Goth themes:
control, mindlessness, evil. When the late eighties metal craze hit
(Guns and Roses, Whitesnake, "Decline
of Civilization pt. II") the Cult were more than admirably
positioned to switch over to a more “rockin” style of music and open
for Metallica. (However the greatest transformation of mid eighties
alternative to hard rock was carried out by Gene Love Jezebel with their
infinitely catchy single “Jealous.”
If I was to search out a
point of intersection between Goth Rock and Hard Rock, it would not
be hard to locate it: The dark one himself, Jim Morrison. (Indeed, the
Cult’s Astbury was often accused of being a third rate Morrison without
the Door’s lyricist’s gift for poetry (A gift, I might add, I’ve always
found of dubious quality.)) Though I’ve never been a great Doors fan,
I can’t deny the obvious impact he had on modern rock, leaving his scent
on performers as varied as the Cure’s Robert Smith and G’n’R’s Axl Rose.
But what does it matter
now. Both genres have had their heyday. 80’s style Metal has fallen
to the grave, while most Goth artists can only be seen in VH1’s various
“Where are they now” shows. It’s not like their influence can’t be felt
today though, perhaps the most successful offspring of the Rock, Goth
intercourse would be the preeminent symbol of evil today: Marilyn Manson.
Combining one cup Goth, 2 cups Dark Metal and a teaspoon of Satan, MM
seems to have captured the hearts of today’s youth.
Ahh, but who can understand
the kids of today with their rap music and bi-sexuality. I’ll take a
good Cult concert any day.