Bauhaus – Go Away White (Bauhaus Music) 3.19.08 Keith Boyd
Those three descending notes are what mattered most. At first it was all dub drums and clatter. Sweepy scrapes of guitar strings added atmosphere and panic. What was this sound? Was it the soundtrack to some German/Jamaican hybrid horror movie? Then those damn notes started. BOOM-BOOM-BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! And you knew you were not in Kansas anymore Toto! Like many of you out there my first exposure to the Glam/Doom/Goth/? Band Bauhaus was through the exquisitely creepy single, “Bela Lugosi’s Dead”. This miniature movie as song while actually standing apart from the bulk of their output seemed to encapsulate the exact feeling of the band. Named for the German art and architecture movement of the 20’s and 30’s this group of weirdoes seemed to pop fully formed out of post-Punk England as if they were Nosferatu coming out of the grave. While remaining the ground-zero for all Goth music to come, Bauhaus had an extra something that I believe elevated them into the realm of the truly great and unique. That of course adds extra meaning and poignancy to this combination Comeback/Breakup disc.
I was introduced to the gloomy and passionate sounds of Bauhaus through whom I guess you might call my first “serious” girlfriend Wendy. Our relationship began at one of those theme parties held so often at colleges. This one was a “Black and White” night and I being so not into themes wore the most colorful African Dashiki I could find and finished it off with orange shorts and spray painted gold boots. Early in the day I had made a marigold chain of the discarded flowers from my job at the flower stand and accompanied by my beat acoustic guitar I went to the party seeking a good time. A group of my pals were already there when I showed up and amongst them were these two new gals I didn’t know. I was introduced and right away Wendy asks me if I knew any Rolling Stones on guitar. Being somewhat surprised I decided on a test. I’d ask her to choose between two of the more obscure tunes I knew and see what she knew about the Stones. I said something like, “How about Sweet Virginia” or “Country Honk”?” and right away without pause she says, “Oh Sweet Virginia for sure I don’t want any retreads of Honky Tonk Women tonight!”. I was floored dear readers. I was flabbergasted. I looked at this woman with her wavy-long hair, her rock and roll get up and her almost black eyes and I was smitten. I bashed out the song and something clicked. The two of us became permanently attached at the hip. Well like most cases of young love this one followed the usual trajectory of intensity followed by an abysmal crash. I won’t go too into this particular crash except to say that it involved ignorance, growth and powders. The main thing was that we were both music FREAKS! For every band I introduced her to she’d turn me on to two. Those first months together were a true meeting of young hearts and minds figuring out life and finding a kindred spirit. One of the best discoveries Wendy turned me on to was Bauhaus. She LOVED them. By this time they had been broken up for a year and the side projects, “Tones on Tail” and “Love and Rockets” had already begun making waves but she had the whole catalog of Bauhaus on vinyl and as she put the extended single mix of “Bela…” on the turntable she said something like just listen. I sat back and the whole above described soundscape started whirling out of the speakers. I was blown away. It was such a brilliant hybrid. Elements of dub reggae, Glam Rock, movie soundtracks and Romantic poetry of Shelley and Byron all mashed together into this dreamy yet danceable mix. I was hooked right away. Although “Bela…” is by far the exception rather than the rule of their music, I found almost everything they did to be compelling. Their sound had this great dramatic edge to it. It seemed epic and a bit mysterious. Although they are I suppose irreversibly linked to the Goth music scene, I never found them too easy to pin down. I would say that rather any specific genre that they were making very European music. It had an edge of indulgent, glamorous intelligence that could never have come from this country. And so now they are back but not really folks. This apparently a one-shot deal and due to some undisclosed incident the band will not be working together ever again. Sad really because this album is great.
Recorded in 18 days, some tracks in one take, Bauhaus' fifth studio album proves that even a quarter-century's hiatus can't kill a great band. Echoes of Bauhaus have been heard in the work of their heirs and imitators for the past few decades and 25 years after their last studio release the band have returned with yet another undiluted glimpse into their world and vision. From the first track, Peter Murphy’s vocal strength and daring are immediately apparent. It is safe to say that he has never been in better voice. “Too Much 21st Century” opens the record with a bright punchy saunter, heavy on mid-60’s Beatles guitars and background harmonies. On “Saved,” Murphy’s solo work comes to mind with chromatic melodies mingling with Middle Eastern tonalities and weighty sepulchral bells. (Think “Never Man,” “Socrates the Python,” or the Dust album.) Another standout track, “Mirror Remains,” is reminiscent of “Rosegarden Funeral of Sores” and finds Daniel Ash laying down chilling strains of reverb-driven leads atop David J and Kevin Haskins’ ice cold groove. The album’s most innovative achievement, however, has to be “The Dog’s a Vapour,” an smoldering track that invokes the band’s impressive past while simultaneously breaking new ground. At times it eclipses even the most impassioned offerings of their back catalog. “Go Away White” is a worthy addition to the Bauhaus cannon. It has a little something for dark eyeline wearer in all of us. It’s a shame that something came between the artists that has driven them so far apart. As this album evidences they were on the cusp of a new surge in creativity. I suppose it’s fortunate that at least we are left with one last scintillating artifact to add to the remains of an impressive musical career. Lastly, let me add that I hope that you’re out there somewhere Wendy amongst these foggy ruins of time and space, living your own healthy life and enjoying these new sounds of good old Bauhaus.