Sunday, March 8, 2009

Gothic Spin

The March Issue of Spin features a curious and frustrating compilation of 'Goth Essentials'. Recommended albums from Joy Divison, The Cure, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Virgin Prunes, 45 Grave, Bauhaus, Red Lorry Yellow Lorry, and other similar artists are all presented under the headline: "From The Depths of Hell and Hot Topic, A Goth Primer For Gouls Of All Ages." The most recent release listed is a compilation of mostly classic goth, A Life Less Lived: The Gothic Box, which is now 3 years old. So my question is, why now? What's the point? There's nothing new to promote, and while this piece has the power to introduce readers to some of the most exquisitely crafted music of the past 30 years, there's that same old 'guilty pleasure tone' lurking in the shadows that kills me.

Author Chuck Eddy praises The Cure while criticizing Robert Smith's "botched makeup," and labels much of mid-80's goth, particularly The Sisters of Mercy, as "decadent shtick that wouldn't die." Granted, there is much to critique in the pantheon of goth music, but there is a time and a place for it. Eddy's tone and approach seems like yet another example of the mainstream media's handling of dark music and aesthetics with backhanded paeans that are simultaneously damning and complimentary. They can't criticize it too much, because dark art sells. So they'll give you the hook - like the image of lascivious black lips and pearlized teeth in the February issue of Oprah Magazine - but it's always tempered with a final rebuff.

Clearly I have a bone to pick, or I wouldn't be eschewing mainstream publications in favor of this blog. There is little seriousness in the way many media outlets discuss dark art and culture - if they do so at all. The problem becomes this: dark art and culture - whether you label it with the G-Word or not - has been fetishized to the point where new artists in music, fashion, and other fields cannot be taken as seriously outside their niche communities. If it's good output that happens to be 'dark' or 'gothic' why not just tackle the material head on with a straightforward review? Must the cliched quips about vampires and Hot Topic continue? There just has to be a better way to spin it.

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