Reviews, Terminal Communications

Cognitive Dissonance: On being post-goth

I’m not ashamed to admit I have a difficult relationship with Goth. I saw the Sisters for the first time at their infamous worst-show-ever (Astoria 2006) and still loved it. I discovered half of my favourite bands as a late teen off Mick Mercer’s Gothic Rock compilations. I’ve crimped, I’ve backcombed, I’ve worn a cowboy hat. I still go and watch The Mission every single year without fail.

Some of the artists and characters that inhabited the goth scene when I first started to become involved were the most supportive, encouraging and comradely figures I had in my life throughout that period. The herculean effort put in by the goth scene’s champions is an example to all of counter-culture, and the longevity of the scene is a testament to it’s self belief and authenticity.

This being the case, why do I insist on denigrating all things goth? Why the crisis of faith? Why refuse to accept kinship with the culture that raised me, when the music I make and the articles I write are so clearly grounded in it?

The answer is simply that despite all of its merits, the goth audience became a vehicle for conservatism. The inhibiting influence and circular logic it imposed upon the artists it claimed for its own prevented ambition and evolution. Like the way a corporate monopoly stifles an industry, the goth scene’s grip on goth music was slowly killing it.

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The writer of this article aged 22 in 2011. Taken in a well known North London Goth Club.

Post Y2K, goth bands have been increasingly been out-competed in their own field by artists from outside the genre, starting again from first principles.

People often say that the “I’m not goth while being plainly gothic as fuck” affectation is a simple pastiche of Andrew Eldritch and The Sisters Of Mercy. This rather misses the point, as there are literally hundreds of bands from the last 20 years that have managed to out goth the goths. Here are is a little selection of the albums that lead me on the journey that ended up with me believing that the best way to be goth was to avoid goth at all costs:

LISTEN AS A PLAYLIST

A.R.E. Weapons – A.R.E. Weapons (2000)

With their mean, druggy, biker-come-street-gang exterior, wry humour and minimal synth/drum machine/guitar sound palette, by the turn of the millennium A.R.E. Weapons were busy pushing themselves as the coolest band on the planet via Rough Trade Records, while bands with literally the same set of influences and instruments weren’t even cool in their local wednesday night goth club.

Primal Scream – XTRMTR (2000)

How was a band who literally made their name as a second-summer-of-love euphoric dance music act suddenly able to make an album of pure gonzoid amphetamine filth while the rest of us were still working out the chords for This Corrosion?

She Wants Revenge – She Wants Revenge (2006)

For the more progressive elements of the goth scene, this was one of the albums that convinced them the outside world existed. This hit goth club dance floors in a big way, despite being from an “indie” band. Cue existential crisis.

Bat For Lashes – Two Suns (2009)

This wonderful slab of New Wave grandiosity put the self -appointed torch bearers  of post-punk to shame.

White Lies – To Lose My Life (2009)

This album still gives me the shivers. Both bleak yet epic, towering yet fragile. This record defined the post-punk revival that finally brought goth back into the light.

A Place To Bury Strangers – Exploding Head (2009)

I literally challenge you to a better name a drum-machine/guitar goth rock album made that decade. And it didn’t come from Leeds, it came from the heart of the newly hipsterised New York noise scene.

Cold In Berlin – Give Me The Walls (2010)

Emerging from their formative period as “Death Cigarettes”, Cold In Berlin were one of the first bands from the East London post-punk underground that forward looking goth promoters started take seriously (credit to nights like Dead And Buried). This caused a long and pointless loathing in the goth scene of “East London Hipster Bands”, which ultimately hastened its demise, while giving loads of publicity to a new generation of bands that thought Camden had outlived its usefulness as a hub of counter-culture.

Because they were willing to engage with the goth scene on some level (unlike most of their contemporaries) these guys had a big influence on me. In some ways they did for London goths what She Wants Revenge started doing to the scene as whole a few years before.

Ulterior – Wild In Wildlife (2011)

A band that inspired an almost quasi-religious devotion in me for a time (I even have a home made Ulterior tattoo on my right leg).

Factory Floor – Factory Floor (2013)

An act that literally needed nothing but a drum machine and a massive reverb unit to take everyone else to school. This record is like a one sentence put-down that ends the entire argument.

Chvrches – The Bones Of What You Believe (2013)

Move over Depeche Mode, here come Chvrches. This industrial synthpop trio literally filled stadiums while others struggled to fill Slimelight.

Vuvultures -Push/Pull (2014)

This relatively short lived act did a great job of presenting themselves as the centre of their own underground scene, forging an effective link in the chain between the ultra-cool East London DIY music scene and the ultra-influential fashion world. The music? Pure goth.


Ritual Howls – Into The Water (2016)

One of my favourite ‘definitely not a goth band’ records from last year.


It’s a damn tragedy that so many great bands will be more or less be forgotten by history because they stood on the wrong side of the line in the cultural sand. So many of the bands listed above created great goth albums by going back to post punk and drawing the same musical conclusions as goth scene bands from the late 1980s onwards. Ulterior could have had a turf war with James Rays Gangwar, that A Place To Bury Strangers single isn’t a world away from Transition era Vendemmian and Ritual Howls unknowingly made an improved version of Rosetta Stone’s Tyranny Of Inaction last year. Even White Lies in their early days wouldn’t be out of place on a bill with Altered States. The Dream Disciples’ final album Asphyxia (2001) was as good as, if not better than anything on this list, but no one but me and a few goths own it.

I’ll always love the great bands of the goth scene, and I’ll always carry the torch for them, but there comes a time when its ok to put the albatross down.

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The writer in 2016, aged 27, after watching Sleaford Mods support The Jesus And Mary Chain at a psychedelic rock festival in Manchester, realising the game was up for the whole concept of goth.

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Reviews, Terminal Communications

TERMINAL GODS’ ALBUMS OF THE YEAR 2016 EDITION

Tis the season to write long retrospective lists, and we’re not going to miss the bandwagon. 2016 has been a big year for us: we kicked it off with the release of our debut album, Wave/Form, the culmination of a year of effort which left us feeling strangely… cut loose, free? Since finishing the album we’ve each been on a long campaign of musical mind expansion, searching for new ideas to exploit and creative seams to mine. While we’ve been thrashing out the album in the live arena, behind the scenes we’ve been getting back together to write again – cherry picking from the music we’ve been greedily consuming all year, as well as learning to play new instruments and manipulate new machines.

Here’s a little breakdown of some of the stuff we’ve enjoyed in 2016, and some of the ideas we intend to steal in 2017…

COWLIN

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I immersed myself in a lot of new music this year, especially during the latter half. In particular, I found myself drawn towards the exciting synth-infused jazz recordings of band-hopper, Shabaka Hutchings, as well as those that melded the art-rock of Talking Heads with the funk of Prince (Field Music’s Commontime and Zoos of Berlin’s Instant Everything proving particularly relevant). Of course, Blackstar pre-echoed a number of these sonic investigations with prophetic accuracy. Danny Brown’s Atrocity Exhibition was my most engaging listen of the year, it’s an immensely dense work that demands the listener’s full attention at all times. Consequently, it remains a favourite that I’ve listened to least as I believe it shuns all distractions. I enjoyed the whimsy of Jonny Fritz’s Sweet Creep, it’s as funny as it is melancholic. Esben And The Witch’s Older Terrors is a super selection of long workouts that almost warranted a Songs & Sonics review but there’s just a bit too much compression on show. I wonder why they didn’t ease off on the limiter a bit, there aren’t any pop singles here. Sonic nods go to Agnes Obel’s enthralling Citizen Of GlassBullion’s gloopy Loop The Loop; and Bushman’s Revenge’s cookin’ Jazz, Fritt Etter Hukommelsen. My favourite record of 2016 is Leonard Cohen’s You Want It Darker. Every track is better than the last, Cohen is on spectacular form, it sounds incredible, and it’s the perfect conclusion to his final trilogy.

MAISEY

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I think anyone who’s musical year wasn’t in some way shaped by the triptych of David Bowie’s Blackstar, Nick Cave’s Skeleton Tree, and Leonard Cohen’s You Want It Darker is either heartless, tasteless or has simply not been paying attention. All three of these wonderful albums are worth entire studies in their own right. Those of you that have been paying attention may have noticed that I reacted badly to both Blackstar and Skeleton Tree in their initial weeks of release, but a full year of constant attention, scrutiny and intra-band discussion has turned them both into monoliths in my music collection. Leonard Cohen was a hit as soon as it landed.

There are lots of honourable mentions this year. Albums that I enjoyed for one reason or another, but didn’t quite make the grade in every aspect. Factory Floor’s 2525 I enjoyed a lot, but mostly because it basically sounds like their 2013 debut, which I discovered last year and liked even more. White Lies’ Friends was also good, but I’ve owned it for several months now and, although I like it a lot, it hasn’t yet lived up to the promise of its lead single. Much like Fat White Family’s Songs For Our Mothers, which opened up with one of their best singles to date (the fabulous Donna Summer pastiche, “Whitest Boy On The Beach”), but descended into over compressed swampy noise – with only a few other really vital moments on it. My most anticipated rock album of the year – Purson’s Desire’s Magic Theatre (DMT, get it, get it?!) – also didn’t really make the cut, partly because it had also been mastered a bit too flat to be really immersive. I really enjoyed some of the sounds and overall production on Ritual Howl’s Into The Water, who are a bit like a more cerebral version of Ulterior. What it lacked in actual songs it made up for in sonic ideas I’m likely to mine for my own songwriting and production efforts! I’d like to mention James Ray and the Black Hearted Riders and their latest effort Death Dawn Zephyr, but I actually spent most of this year obsessively listening to their 2015 debut Last Train From Woody Creek, which would have easily made it to one of the top spots on this list if it hadn’t, in fact, come out last year. I would heartily recommend Young Romance‘s Another’s Blood. I initially wrote this record off as a grunge version of Kate Bush but it quickly grew on me. A well presented, subtle and interesting collection of songs – the complexity of which are initially masked by the aggressive guitar tone, but reward lots of repeat listening.

My favourite album of the year came out in the autumn, and that’s Alex Cameron’s Jumping The Shark. This utterly delightful combination of Suicide-esque musical arrangements and Bruce Springsteen Nebraska era vocal stylings is one of those perfect storms that was impossible until it was made, and then became obvious and inevitable. A concise 35 minutes of ballads about kitchen sink drama and personal failure, it’s a record that understands completely that you don’t have to be good looking to look real good.

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COOPER

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Whereas many will praise 2016 releases from the likes of Beyoncé, Nick Cave, and David Bowie, I found the records that warranted the most repeat listens where those released by upcoming bands. Debut albums by Dead Coast (Shambolic), Desert Mountain Tribe (Either That Or The Moon) and Sunflower Bean (Human Ceremony) spring immediately to mind as exceptional first outings by bands that have gone from strength to strength over the course of the year and set a standard for ground-level artists on their way up.

2016 seemed to me a year of political uncertainty, with everyone looking to pop music for escapism. This, or eager to hear veteran songwriters’ point of view on the ever-changing world, cherry picking each line for some hidden message. What do they know that we don’t? Many ‘End Of Year Listicles’ completely bypass new bands in favour of established artists which, in my opinion, is a total crime. It wasn’t just in politics that the young were being largely ignored.

Album two from God Damn was an angry, riff-laden masterpiece that saw a two-piece become three. Constantly engaging and evolving, the record saw a band eager to avoid pigeon holes and in the process created something totally unique. Lola Colt’s second release was a confident, effortless joy throughout, far superior to the flurry of other psych and prog releases that littered 2016 while Wolf People’s third outing was doom heaven and explored themes of nature, the environment and history, yet couldn’t sound more relevant.

Cruelly overlooked this year was Eagulls’ follow-up, Ullages, probably because it was released way back in May, which took their original guitar-heavy garage, upped the post-punk, and doubled the misery, and it’s a treat to lose yourself in.

Number one though, the gold standard, was the debut release from London-based upstarts YAK. Alas Salvation is an epic which sees a band battle with their own hype to produce something both artistically relevant and crowd-pleasing for their growing mainstream fan base. They do both, and then some. This record has literally everything, partnered with their astoundingly chaotic live show, they’re a band I’m eager to see continue to live up to expectations.

Look to your young people, get your heads out the clouds. Lemmy and Cohen did their jobs by inspiring upcoming artists, and they’re sat across from you at work, serving you at your local, and playing just round the corner next week.

CAMPBELL

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Twenty sixteen. 2016. MMXVI. The only thing anyone agrees on now is how comprehensively awful this year has been, awful enough to have spawned a cottage industry in memes reminding us how it is best quickly forgotten, blacked out like an alcoholics fortieth birthday. But as a great poet once wrote, there is a crack in everything. It’s how the light gets in, innit? But what are, in my objectively correct opinion, some of the cracks in the monolith that was 2016? As my comrades above have chosen to shun the traditional list format, let’s break it down old school style.

V.

It may seem trite, but the constant flashes of wit and brilliance in the local London live music scene never cease to amaze. There are so many great bands, staffed by some of the coolest cats you’d ever hope to meet, doing what they love. In alphabetical order (no favouritism here) BlackMoon 1348, Broken Soundtracks, Desperate Journalist, Lola Colt, Medium Wave, Purs, Sex Cells, Sly Persuaders, St Agnes, Weird Sex have all played great gigs, and/or released amazing material, and/or just rocked fucking hard. All your hard work does not go unnoticed.

IV.

The constant folding and refolding of pop culture from the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, blah fucking blah, into every facet of modern life reaches undreamt of heights. “Do you member? Oh, I member!” Once perceived as a harmless distraction, we glimpse the dark underbelly. Fetishisation of a rose tinted past has birthed our Make X Great Again ™ world, a pulling down of shutters, a tightening of bootstraps, a cherry picking of history and ‘truth’ that suits the narratives of every chancer sitting at any given point of the political spectrum, left, right, every shade in between.

But hold up now, isn’t this about the cracks of light? The chinks in the armour? When we see the morass of mud and shit clearly, the nuggets of gold shine brighter. Across the media spectrum we have been gifted with the note perfect love letter to retro of Stranger Things, John Carpenter with a full band live on a balmy summer evening, face melting psych freakouts from Baba Naga, and S U R I V I V E releasing a fantastic yet challenging vox-free synthwave album to critical acclaim. And more decent synthwave in the world is clearly A Good Thing.

III.

A dark and somewhat dingy working mans club in Hackney. A small stage, a gold glitter backdrop, an antipodean lounge singer paces, muttering anecdotes about dead baby rabbits and crooning about comebacks that are never to be. His business partner lounges louchely on a nearby stool, draped in a fading dressing gown, looking generally disinterested but occasionally interjecting with bursts of sax. Never has a live set, with almost the entirety of the music set to a backing track, been so electric. Alex Cameron, upon you I bestow the coveted Gig of the Year. And I think a few other people might have noticed that Jumping The Shark is pretty damn solid album too. And you know what? It’s also A Good Thing that an album released two years past can get picked up for a solid re-release and finally get some of the acclaim it deserves. Maybe it takes the rest of the world a little time to catch up when you’re living so far out in front? Maybe it gives the rest of us some hope too.

II.

If you want to make it onto a bunch of year end best-of lists (and lets face it, who doesn’t?), as our in house PR team would argue it’s a delicate dance of timing and ingenuity. Release too early in the year and, unless you’re Bowie, by the end of the year everyone’s probably forgotten about it. Release too late, and while your shit may be great, people will wonder whether you’ve got the chops to still be top of the heap in a month, a year, a decade’s time. So with that in mind I’m going out on a limb and claiming that, today, Moonlandingz’s new track “Black Hanz” is the best track of 2016. It’s a stonking blend of motorik drums, swirling psychedelia, catchy hooks, and what the fuck were they thinking bells and whistles.

Would it make this list if I wrote it tomorrow? Next week? Next month? Who can say, but probably not.

I.

A muggy summer afternoon in the Catalan capital. Hawaiian shirts, shorts, aviators. Cliches within cliches. Security confiscates three of the four bottles of homemade rum and pineapple punch stuffed down the back of our pants, but they’re pretty good natured about it. Wander down a quiet path to a quiet beach. Sit on the sand, smoke a spliff, drink rum and reasonably priced beers, watch fat men in y-fronts and sunburns wallow in the flat mediterranean. Head back, security still friendly, down to the main stages. Brian Wilson has started. Somewhere in the middle of a massive crowd, not too close to the front and not too far from the bar. As classic song follows classic song, a teacher and I make total fools of ourselves playing air guitar, piano, drums, weaving drunken vocals in and out in approximations of complex vocal harmonies. The crowd around ignores us, or joins in, whatever, drunken English. A moment in a day in 2016, as days go it’s pretty much like every other for the mass of living things on this world, but oh what times to be living in. Cliches within cliches.

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This very nearly made the cut…

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All photography by Keira Ann, January 2016.

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