Goth, a dirty word for so long, has enjoyed a resurgence over the past ten years or so. Previously known as the spawn of post punk, now the boundaries between the two genres are so blurry they’re twinned, best exemplified by the likes of The Horrors, or less successfully, like the disingenuous angst of bands such as White Lies.
If your knowledge of goth doesn’t extend beyond the likes of Bauhaus or Sisters Of Mercy, this extensive box set of goth rock between the years ’78 to '86 highlights that the genre was more than just sad sounding musicians who'd watched too many horror flicks and also makes clear that the alignment of post punk and goth isn’t actually new thing.
If you’re expecting malnourished, overly serious guys (and it is a predominantly male genre) averse to daylight and joy... that’s exactly what you get here. But, as is the norm with Cherry Red compilations, this collection delves way beyond the big bands, which is where the collection becomes a 5CD education in a genre.
All the big hitters are here, the aforementioned Sisters and Bauhaus, The Cure, The Mission, Fields Of The Nephilim, Alien Sex Fiend and Southern Death Cult sit comfortably alongside more post punk bands such as Birthday Party, Public Image Ltd and Joy Division, whose classic "Transmission" opens the set - perhaps a way of them telling us this is the first goth track?
Away from the better known artists of the genre you’ll find a deliciously gloomy pre Primal Scream Bobby Gillespie as part of The Wake, doom-pop from Specimen, bleak hate-rock from 1919, psyched up, and proto acid house electronic experiments from Portion Control with "Fiends". Holding up particularly well is "Ghost" by Part 1, which pre-dates the claustrophobic productions of Dan Carey by several decades.
Clearly five CDs is way too much musical despondency to take in on one sitting, but this compilation does comprehensively show that for a genre known for an insular outlook, there was a surprising amount of scope musically from the bands involved. If punk was the sound of a disaffected London, goth was its Northern counterpart, the “I’m fucked” to 1977’s mantra of “Fuck You”. Turn the dark on and slip inside.