Editor’s Note: Crate Digging is a recurring feature in which we take a deep dive into a genre and turn up several albums or bands all music fans should know about. Today, we revisit this installment, which first published in October 2019, to celebrate the 40th birthday of The Birthday Party’s Prayers on Fire. Stay goth, kids.
Goth-rock, post-punk, new wave — what’s the difference? Is there a difference? It depends on whom you ask. The terms are often used interchangeably, and most of the defining bands in these genres were quick to dismiss labels altogether. So, it’s really up to us, the “music professionals,” to determine just where they fit in. I’m totally kidding, but it is important to note that “goth-rock” is a genre that can easily fall between the cracks of post-punk and new wave. It’s also worth noting that just because a specific record falls under a particular category doesn’t necessarily mean that artist is exclusively that genre.
So, yes, nothing matters and it all means nothing. However, if you’re like me and appreciate a slight sense of order and structure, however small, in a meaningless world, here’s what we mean by goth-rock.
Goth-rock took the synthesizers and processed guitars of post-punk and used them to establish apprehensive, sorrowful, and often epically ominous soundscapes. Its lyrics are usually introspective and intensely personal, but can be chopped up by poetic sensibilities, which naturally led to a taste for literary romanticism, morbidity, religious symbolism, and supernatural mysticism. Other signatures of goth-rock include heavy rock beats, romantic lyrics, electric influences, such as keyboards, and a tendency to focus on gloomy lyrics, boxes all ticked by Nick Cave, a pioneer of the genre.
Goth-rock can sometimes be confusing because many of the post-punk bands that influenced it went on to create albums that fall exclusively under the goth-rock genre. For example, The Cure, who began with a post-punk style of gloomy acoustics, evolved to become upbeat goth-rock legends. Cave’s own The Birthday Party are regarded as one of the major influences in goth-rock, and Cave himself is very much, with his deep-black hair and pale, skeletal look, the poster boy for the genre all these years later.
With that crash course under your Hot Topic belt, we’ve hand-picked 10 albums guaranteed to bring out your inner goth.