Not many people know this but I was, very briefly, the only Goth in West Wales. This was inspired by loving The Cult, really liking pointy shoes, feeling all dark, doomy and mysterious with an intensity that no living person had ever done before me and seeing a minute of The Sisters of Mercy performing ‘Lucretia, My Reflection’ on Top of The Pops. It was mostly the latter. My abiding impression was a swirl of dry ice and black, a skinny dude in black jeans and a pale chick with really big hair and a bass. It was enough for me, I sprang into action and ordered Floodland from Brittania Music Club and on 5 September 1988 1537-Goth was born / crawled his way through the earth into the light.
I very quickly became obsessed with Floodland, from the cover on in, it is a brilliant LP and still one of my favourites. I can remember consuming this LP so much that I was able to amuse myself by writing out the lyrics, particularly to ‘Lucretia, my Reflection’ and ‘Driven Like the Snow’* in my free time at school; if that made me look cool and mysteriously attractive to chicks, then that was a risk I was just going to have to take. Committing to my new style financially I bought a black shirt and pointy shoes, which I wore with the black jeans I already wore and Bingo! as far as I was concerned I was a Goth. Out went songs about shagging, fighting and drinking, in came songs about mysterious girls with cool names, wastelands, floodlands, temples and elegantly wasted, yet subtly damaged souls, oh and I started drinking cider and black. There was also a brief episode with eyeliner, but it just upset my mum.
I love this LP unreservedly. I love its cold, glassy atmosphere. I love Andrew Eldritch’s lyrics which vacillate between portentious and pretentious. I love the steal from ‘Ozymandias’, in fact I actually squealed in a very unmanly fashion when I first read the poem, briefly wondering how a man who died in 1822 could be quoting The Sisters of Mercy. I loved the fact that their drum machine had a name and I thought Andrew Eldritch was cool as hell for living in Hamburg and because he had clearly taken van-loads of drugs at some point. I am ashamed to say that the fact the band were from Leeds had a definite bearing on the fact I chose to go to university there.
Music? it’s all great but my personal favourite bits are ‘Lucretia, My Reflection’, which as well as prophesying the ruinous effects of the Capitalist machine and the futility of religion, just sounded like raw aural sex to me – perfectly fitting the whole, ‘we’re doomed along with this world, so before we quit this palsied, troubling plane of existence let us throw ourselves together and couple like the beasts of the field’ atmosphere; 4:57 being ample time in which to do so. At the risk of throwing a cheap double entendre into the mix – the 12″ is even more satisfyingly. I also loved the whole big, dumb sturm und drang of the Jim Steinman-assisted ‘This Corrosion’; you want excess? have more choirs, bigger choruses! The final lines from, ‘I got nothing to say I ain’t said before / I bled all I can I won’t bleed no more’, onwards still give me goosebumps 24 years later.
Best of all though is ‘Driven Like the Snow’, the imagery of night, snow, virginity, umm, non-virginity, lipstick on cigarettes, cars trapped in the snow, white sheets, the chosen few …. allied to the most restrained vocal and music on the LP are just overpowering. Again, like a lot of the best things I have been writing about it plugs me straight back into adolescence. Is that what I use my records for I wonder? just a great big aural nostalgic scratch n’ sniff that I use to transport myself back to a time when I had a lot less responsibility and a lot more hair? conveniently forgetting about all the nonsense insecurities and angst I suffered from. Could be something in that, maybe deep down its why I cling doggedly to an outmoded format from my youth … but let’s not get too analytical here. I will have occasion to write a lot more about The Sisters later.
By the way – loads of people must have liked Floodland and all the attendant singles from it, but I have honestly yet to meet anyone (away from a Sisters of Mercy gig) who professed a love for them. Maybe I’ve just not been hanging around the right graveyards.
My own Goth phase lasted properly for about 7 weeks – it got to be a bit of a hassle and so I bought a new Faster Pussycat T-shirt and went back to songs that were predominantly about shagging, fighting and drinking again, albeit with the odd one about snow chucked in and I still drank cider and black.
56 Down (darkly).
* the recipient of 1537 bonus points for some great, beautifully articulated swearing. The LP also gets additional bonus points for the cool photo on the lyric sheet and its generally glossy feel. I’m not sure my love for this LP is at all Platonic.