Let’s mention music that makes “true fans” descent into rages.

The last two days were about Goth and Pop. Let’s combine this.
What does come out when you combine Goth and Pop in the 90s?

H.I.M.

1997 was a great year to see “True” Goths frenzy like blood-starved vampires at the mere mention of Ville Vallo’s band. And I have to admit that I showed some stupidly reasonless disdain, too. But I got better fast and started enjoying their music with 1999’s “Razorblade Romance“. That album still holds some wonderful tracks that are relevant if you want to set a darkly romantic mood without hunting down some precious, 250-times pressed on vinyl, rare Apocalyptic Folk release. (Yes, such shit makes me angry.)

But I think I’ll try to leave the 1999 albums for December. While they were the distilled essence of the 90s, they didn’t really have any effect ON them. That’s why I have less problems with songs fro, 1990. While they were distilled 80s songs, they had great effect on the 90s. It’s all shades and gradients with me. (Yes, that was an attempt at dry humour. I’m not really that pretentious. … Not all the time, at least.)

So, let me show you some 1997 HIM in a playback situation. Mostly because I couldn’t find the proper music video for this.

HIM – Your Sweet Six Six Six [Greatest Love Songs Vol. 666] | 1997 | Goth-Pop

Looking back, I don’t get what made people so damn angry. I guess it was the rapid and sudden success, and that this bred resentment in fans of other bands. People probably thought that “their” band deserved that money and fame more than H.I.M. did. And with that came the accusations and the slander and the bad, insulting jokes and the ostracism of H.I.M. fans at Goth “functions” (clubs, discos, parties, festivals, bars).

Proxy-jealousy.

Which is paradoxical in many ways, the greatest being: The people mostly opposed to H.I.M.’s success are also the ones who got angry and loud when “their” band DID attain more mainstream success and who then left in droves because those bands weren’t “true” any more.

What drives people to think that the best thing to happen to the bands they love is peemanent obscurity I don’t know. But it’s there in every fandom and every niche. I still remember angry X-Files nerds “quitting the show” when it got mainstream-popular.

I get stopping being a fan of something if the success is due to a change in style and focus (see Unheilig). But most of the time it seems that people just love being able to “love” something that’s obscure and thus keeping some fake sense of elitism alive.

Let’s Revisit 90s Goth…

It was in the mid-to-late 90s when I was introduced to both the World of Darkness and Goth music. It wasn’t as interconnected as it sounds, but they both helped each other. If there hadn’t been Mage (and my life would have taken the exact same turns as it did with it), I wouldn’t have gotten into Dead Can Dance until 2005, when I finally met a dear friend for the first time, on a nice wintry weekend in Berlin.

But Mage was there. And it made me check out Dead Can Dance. And I fell in love. To this day I can’t imagine running a Mage chronicle without using DCD heavily in setting mood and theme for many scenes.

But today, I’m not going to show you anything by Dead Can Dance. This will be left for another day. Probably in late October or early November.

Today I want to make you listen to a song that makes The Crüxshadows for me.
When I started hitting goth clubs and discos from 1999 onwards, this song was a club-killer. Up until 2003/2004 IIRC. People just loved to dance to it, and for a good reason. It’s uptempo beats and catchy melody make it perfect danceloor-fodder.

Ladies and Gentlemen…

The Crüxshadows – Marilyn, My Bitterness [Telemetry of a Fallen Angel] | 1995 | Goth (Yes, I’m putting them down as “Goth”, as I can’t decide between -rock and -electro. And it’s too heavy on both to fall under “Darkwave” for me personally.)

The 90s were a good time to be Goth. You had all the styles living side-by-side. New Batcave sounds came out side-by-side with extremely good Darkwave, EBM, Goth-rock, Synthpop and Industrial-Rock/Metal pieces, albums and bands. Even the smaller genres like Coldwave and Angstpop were getting great stuff.

But “mainstream” Goth? It was soaring. And The Crüxshadows (What is it with US Americans and weird-ass names? I’m German and that name gives me problems…) hit just the right spot. Mixing rock, electronica and string elements with a perfidiously charismatic lead-singer to a whole people actually liked to listen and dance to. They weren’t alone with this, no, but I stil remember that whenever the DJ put up a Crüxshadows song, most (if not all) of the Goth factions would meet on the dancefloor. It made for a wonderful mix of different dancing styles and forms of expression. It was a really good time. I liked it more than the fractured nature we see today. And I know what about this is because of Nostalgia and what’s because of rational reasons.

Back to the Crüxshadows. They somehow managed to start producing theme-albums from “Telemetry” onwards which still held club-hits and Single/EP material. That’s just good sense. They also managed to combine the utterly melodramatic with the fun. Making it very clear that they didn’t take themselves at all seriously. But then, most Goth acts don’t. That seems to be a Metal staple. And a fucking stupid one at that in some numerous cases.

Anyway, different topic. Different day.

Today, we celebrate 90s Goth and the party days of old.

And because I mentioned the World of Darkness, here’s the connection you’ve all been waiting for.
And if not… Well… Now you know. And knowing, as well all know, is half the battle!
Have a great day, everybody. :)

The Crüxshadows – Deception [Music From the Succubus Club] | 2000 | Goth

Let’s talk about Pop (Part I)

It might not look like it from the songs introduced until now, but… I LIKE Pop.
Good Pop, that is. One of the reasons I love the 80s so much. Soooo much great Pop.

And it’s a reason why I so highly dislike the last few years. It can be summed up with one mid-length word: Autotuning.
There are other factors as well, mostly regarding some blatant over-production (Yes, I DID just complain about over-production. No it’s not hypocrisy. I’ll tell you why when I get to it in a later post.) and the loss of great feel-good hymns.

So, let’s look a great early 90s Feel Good Hymn.
And I bet that EVERYONE of you knows this song and you will instantly start humming and singing along to it. And you will damn well like it!

Take a gander here. Watch it from beginning to end.

Spin Doctors – Two Princes [Pocket Full of Kryptonite] | 1991 | Pop (Rock)

It’s even an Autumnal Feel Good Hymn, how cool is that? Utterly fitting for the golden times we’re having now. :)
The video helps to sell that 90s feeling. It’s fun. It’s mixing at least three different styles of filmography. And it’s gonzo.
The song really makes you feel good, the flow is nice, the lyrics are damnably sweet and romantic without being sappy.

It’s a good song.
It’s good Pop.
I’d like more of this, even now. Especially now.

Placeholders!

I’m actually already too late to where I was supposed to go.
So this post will start small and short and I’ll try to improve on it later today/tonight.

After some Swedish Metal, I’ll give you some German Metal. A Power Metal band. But not a Power Metal song. Still, one of their most iconic songs.

Blind Guardian – The Bard’s Song-In The Forest [Somewhere Far Beyond] | 1992 | Power Metal (Well, not THAT song, obviously.)

This is probably THE song to get you into the right mood for some fantasy roleplaying. If listening to this song won’t give you ideas for an sprawling woods, dark nights, wide fields and your sword and shield by your side… I’m sorry for you. Genuinely sorry.

It manages to be epic while being very downtempo. It’s uplifting without being upbeat. Nearly twenty years after it’s release it still sends shivers down my spine. And if you ever get the chance to see Blind Guardian live, you WILL hear it. And you WILL experience it.

Here, ten years after release.
Just… Just listen to this. Try to feel it.

This song also pretty handily kicks all those “Metalheads are all angry brutes!” myths right in the groin. (Yes, I’m aware of the irony here.)

Enjoy.
And think of old stories and ancient legends.

The magic of cities.

That, my dear readership, was In Flames.
In Flames – Moonshield [The Jester Race] | 1996 | Melodic Death Metal,
to be precise, as I’m sometimes wont to do.

That album came out in February 1996.
I think I got it 1998, in December.

It’s a fucking perfect album for the darker and colder times of the year, which is why I stumbled upon it again.
And this song? This is number one on the album.

You put the CD in. You sat back. You pressed play.
And those folkish guitars and melodies hit you.
You start to relax. To lose yourself. You close your eyes.
And then the song hits you full force.

And even though it’s hard and strong and loud, it’s still… Folkish. It’s still charming. It’s melodic (Yes, apparently this IS why the call it “Melodic” Death Metal.). And it takes you away to a different space. It’s atmospheric. (Something the band kinds lost with time, I fear. (Although, to be fair, my favourite In Flames song came out in 2000, on the magnificent “Clayman“))

It’s another thing again when you have this song on your Walkman (I’m old! But even then I used MP3s to create 45min long playlists to then record on blank MCs. ‘Twas a glorious time!) and you’re outside. And it’s dark and cold and the wind is blowing and you’ve got your hands in your pockets, waiting for friends or heading there. Or simply taking a walk. Being cold, walking and just heaving this album flood through your whole being.

I always was more of a Goth/Electro guy than a Metal guy, but this album (And pretty much every In Flames album up to and including Clayman) struck me. Still strikes me.

Apart from the wonderfully autumnal/winterly atmosphere, the technical side was impressive, too. I think it was one of the first albums I got that I really admired for their technical proficiency. If not the first. The timing and the arrangements all simply clicked. The instruments were played extremely well. The mixing was spot-on. And the growling…? Damn. I’m not always a fan, but here? I very well am. Still. Thirteen years later.

Get yourself some cold into your room and listen to this song with as little light as possible. And then tell me what you felt. :)

Oh, fuck! I almost forgot!
Why “the magic of cities”?
Because In Flames hail from Gothenburg, Sweden. “The Castle of the Goths” – Has there ever been a more perfect city to hail from when you create dark music? I don’t think so. And for all that I hate copy-cats… In the late 90s, “Gothenburg Metal” would describe a special kind of Melodic Death Metal that I still adore to this day. It’s not only Nostalgia. They had some utterly amazing tunes in the deep, dark north back then.

And as a monday-bonus?
My favourite In Flames song of all time, in the version I love the most.
It got all the way through my Abitur. I got it after a few weeks in eleventh grade and listened to it all three years through. Never left me. And, it too was a “winter song” for me. I listened to it in the summer too, sure. But in the winter? Magic. Special magic. Especially when comobined with a beautiful girl and a glass of mead by my side, and snow reflecting bright moonlight under our feet, while bright stars were sparkling through misty breath… Early 2000 winters… Had their moments.

Coffee Time / The Dark Fragrance

This time, we’re doing it in a slightly different manner.

If you drink Coffee, get yourself a good cup before proceeding. A nice cup of Tea or Cocoa or glass of Whiskey or even a tall glass of ice-cold, fresh Coke are also ok. Just get a drink that makes you feel comfortable. Then sit back down, start this Youtube playlist, and start sipping, with closed eyes and open thoughts.

http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL1606D4F937B885FD

Three songs from the 90s. Three electronic songs from three different genres.
Not in chronological order, I sorted them to become slightly darker with each progression.

Each is a song made to make you dream and let yourself go to a particular place in your mind.

Halcyon + On + On will make you got to your happy and wistful place.
Waiting for the Night will make you go to your dreamy and romantic place.
Industrial Love will make you go to your… Actually, that I don’t know. I know where it leads me, but I’m letting that one open for you to find out. Sip your drink, let yourself float and listen to this song. Then maybe tell me where it led you? I’d love to hear about it.

This post is not about something unique about the 90s, really. It’s a small showcase-post. To show you some wonderful music from that time that you probably don’t all know (Many of you will probably know two out of three at the most, today – If not: Comment! Prove me wrong! Tell me how you got to know each of those tracks. :) ). And to end the week on a chilled note. Because I think that I know most of my (current) readership well enough to guess that those tracks will all be appreciated as “wind-down” music.

While the 90s had their share of extremes and excesses (anyone else remember the Lara Croft + U2 shebang?), there were also some exceptional works done with understatement and subtlety. And in my very own opinion, those tracks qualify. They will not throw you into a pit, they will not kick your ass, they will not twist your view. But they WILL make you smile, lean back, think and perhaps even remember wistfully.

Have a good night.
Have a good time.
Have a good start into the next week.

The songs from today:

Orbital – Halcyon + On + On [Orbital II] | 1993 | Electronica/Acid House
Depeche Mode – Waiting for the Night [Violator] | 1990 | Synthpop
In Strict Confidence – Industrial Love [Face the Fear] | 1998 | Electro-Industrial

It’s 1994…

…Summer. And you just got back from school. You turn on the TV, tune into MTV and you hear those sounds and see those sights…

The day instantly got better, brighter, more beautiful. You just had to smile, turn the volume up, kick up your shoes and just groove along for a bit.

Beck – Loser [Mellow Gold] | 1994 | Alternative/Lo-Fi

No matter how much into goth I was and am, grunge/alternative/indie were as big a part of those years for me as the darker shades for music. And Beck… Well, Beck was special. He had the boyish looks and a nearly innocent kind of charisma coupled with some of the most fucked-up lyrics you’ll ever read. In a good sense. Coupled with the pretty much always awesome music and composition, those lyrics set themselves into your head and made you think about that stuff when you watched the clouds go by under a clear-blue sky.

And Loser? By the ever-dead gods… Loser was the song for a generation. I’d be hard-pressed to chose any single song from thee 00’s which had such an impact across so many sub-cultures and cliques. I don’t think that there was a single kid at my school who didn’t love this song. Goths, Metalheads, Rockers, Punks, the emerging Techno crowd… Loser was just… Them. Us. Everybody.

It was surreal and weird and fucked up, but at the same time it was upbeat, it made you think, it made you grin and smile and laugh about all the shit that was wrong with you. And it made you able to share those moments with others. Friends and complete strangers alike. Whenever there was a party or someone got one of their post-boombox-boombox out and played that song, there were knowing grins thrown all over the place when all the people joined in the chorus.

“I’m a loser baby… So why don’t you kill me?”

Those were the words of Generation X. Post-Cobain, even, for that added “ironic” & dark touch.
And even though I’m a bit too young to fully fit, I’m a Gen-X’er too, by association and weird preference for age-inappropriate music alone. When you add my outlook on the world, I’m a near-perfect fit. Gen X got (and still gets) much crap. But they’re still people I find perfectly likeable and lovable. And, damn, fuck the current Hipster movement. We had a fucked-up sense of fashion long before they came along and took the 00’s as their decade.

Washed-out/acid-treated Jeans, loose T-Shirts, chains, flannel shirts hung loosely over our torsos, often buttoned non-symmetrically and Doc Marten’s boots. Add some disheveled hair, glasses, dreadlocks and the hottest girls you can imagine… Those were the people rocking out to Beck, Nirvana, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam and all the other greats of this musical era. Whenever I watch the first two seasons of Buffy (and listen to the magnificent soundtrack via their school’s club/bar hangout) I get utterly sentimental. I miss the style, and the people.

So, yeah.
That’s my song for today.

Listen to it, and feel good. Sing along with the chorus, and feel better.
Fuck the world and what others think of you. It’s you who counts.
Enjoy that wonderful, perfect, golden-autumn Saturday night!

Speaking about…

Darkwave.

Let’s stay with that genre for a post. And let’s stay in Germany, too.
In the early 90s, Deine Lakaien were the colder spectrum of Darkwave, that’s why I like to bundle their first 2 albums under “Darkwave/Coldwave”. There nowhere near as cold as “true” Coldwave, but they have their moments. At the same time, though, we had Wolfsheim’s “No Happy View” which came out in 1992 and which is also Darkwave but nowhere near as cold.

Don’t get me wrong. The subject are still not happy and joyful, but the driving energy and beats and melodies are much more “active”. Less subdued. (This is in no way meant to mean “better” or “worse”, mind!)

Let me give you an example, please. With one of the still most preeminent club tracks in German Goth clubs:

Wolfsheim – The Sparrows and the Nightingales [No Happy View] | 1992 | Darkwave

Yes, yes. This track is of (German) legal drinking age. It can drive cars, vote fully and will be tried and sentenced on adult laws. It’s nineteen years old.

And Heppner’s voice and singing still win contests. The song simply doesn’t sound as “old” as many younger songs do. (The video? Hells yeah. That’s old-weak-sauce. The hairstyle alone. *shudders*)
I think I’ll take this on on another Sunday-special: How different songs age differently.

But this one is about this Song.
This Song was Goth. Still is Goth. And so good that even mainstream radio stations still play it from time to time, and did so more often “back then”. When I was sixteen, I heard that song at least twice a week when listening to the radio. It had mainstream appeal while still being firmly anchored in a subculture (That, at this tame, liked to spot a hairstyle that’s called “Vogelnest” and was utterly, non-ironically, serious about it. Just think about THAT for a second or two…).

But why?

Because of the melody. The voice. The lyrics. And the musical arrangement and electronic execution. It’s very “German” through this. It took an electronica-music Kraftwerk legacy and substituted Kraftwerk’s slow, methodical and cold techno-industrial (NOT THE MUSICAL GENRE!) lyrics with gothic’s romantic melancholy and gave it the warmth of a thick, good blanket on a cold autumn day. And the same emotional appeal.

That was, for all intents and purposes, a great deal of what made 90s Goth music and scene so damn appealing to me.
It wasn’t just about violence, slutty sex and terrorizing auditory assaults.
It was about feelings and emotions while at the same time being very danceable and likeable.