FEATURE: Why So Glum?

by Chris Familton

In both popular and fringe culture the dark has been rising steadily over the last decade and it is showing no signs of retreating into the shadows. Fascination with death, ghosts, the dark arts and melancholy have always been important signifiers of all art forms yet this current trend in Hollywood movies and in many musical genres is tantamount to a gothic renaissance.

At the mass consumption end of the scale much credit must go to films like the Harry Potter and Twilight series for kicking off the current trend. They set the scene for the current popularity of TV shows like True Blood, The Walking Dead and American Horror Story with networks embracing death, blood, evil spirits and serial killers. If the theory of art reflecting society is anything to go by then the financial turbulence of recent years is surely a factor in the current popularity of these shows.

Musically the heyday, if not the origins of goth can be traced to the early 80s and bands like The Cure, Bauhaus, The Sisters of Mercy and Joy Division. Many of the groups dismissed the goth tag, much preferring to be called post punk as most emerged from the late 70s UK punk scene yet their music shared tendencies of claustrophobia, rumination on the dark and morbid side of the human psyche and with visual images that embraced very little colour there was generally a look to go with it. The sound those bands created has filtered through to acts of today, some thirty years later, whether it be the darkwave electronica of Light Asylum, Zola Jesus and Austra or guitar bands like Ceremony, The Horrors and Interpol. Most interestingly the cross pollination with synth pop, shoegaze and and dream pop has allowed new versions of the goth/post punk to emerge.

Every music scene is based on action and reaction so in this age of pop music where everything is increasingly saturated in synthetic gloss it is only natural that those with a disdain for manufactured happiness and more inclined to embrace melancholy will find music like this to suit their tastes.  Of course how we label any type of music and how we group its fans is just a symptom of how we like to categorise things but the fascinating thing about the current taste for the dark side is the extent to which it has permeated the mainstream and doesn’t look like giving up the ghost anytime soon.

this piece was first published in Drum Media
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