[dropcap style=”font-size:100px; color:#992211;”]G[/dropcap]oth died when it started repeating everything but the good bits.
While this might sound a tad obvious – have you heard some of the shit being played at Goth nights these days??? – it’s still startling to encounter an entire genre that has lost its collective bottle.
It is music without heart or texture, just a vague insinuation of both, and aimed at some fictional Generation X gloom-maiden with black nail varnish who would probably tell you to piss off regardless.
Philadelphian mordants Night Sins simultaneously fall into this trap and try their best to climb out of it. Their new album, To London or The Lake, has all the stigmata clichés of the genre – sub-Depeche Mode flourishes, frenzied use of the C Minor Chord (aka, the twang of tragically hip despair), up tempo maudlin (every sodding Sisters of Mercy album EVAR) and de rigueur quasi-Robert Smith vocals.
Derivative and bland
Worse, their songs have a derivative and bland quality to them. There is little originality here, just an over-emphasis on mood at the cost of tunefulness or distinctiveness. Perhaps that’s sorta the point with goth rock – it is meant to emphasise mood over structure, most obviously demonstrated by the many-tentacled EBM/Industrial/Darkwave crossover thingy.
But on the other hand, it doesn’t half get bleedin’ tedious after the umpteenth vague track sounding rather affected and blighted.
Hints of distinctiveness
Yet there is another side to this album. Time and again, especially on the title track, we have sudden but fleeting hints of something beginning to emerge from the black morass. Some riffs threaten to have hooks, some abstract intimation of catchiness seeps into the choruses. Tiny hints of distinctiveness begin to echo through like squeaks from a hamster in an aircraft hangar.
The real problem, then, is not that the album has all the usual goth schlock flaws – because it does – but that it is plainly a work in progress. For now, though, Night Sins remain very much of their genre, which is never a good thing.
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Alexander Hay is a writer and polemicist based online and in print.