Thursday, March 16, 2006

The Sisters of Mercy

The rock band that is not the religious order. (Though this rock band may be on the order of the religious, Certainly among Goths Sisters of Mercy might be as controversial as religion) Indulge me for a moment as I talk abit about Goth.
Wednesday night Kate and I saw the Sisters of Mercy in Concert. The Sisters of Mercy is essentially Andrew Eldritch, who has at best an ambiguous and often antagonistic relationship with the Goth scene though most of the fans of Sisters of Mercy are Goth. Yes it was a sea of black at the Metro Tuesday night, and it was beautiful. The Goth DJ Scary Lady Sarah wont play the Sister's of Mercy at her Goth nights, Nocturna, because Andrew Eldritch denies that the Sister's of Mercy is Goth and pokes fun and has said some fairly negative things about the Goth scene. However, Scary Lady Sarah was at the concert. And yet as one of my Goth Friends says of the song "Temple of Love", you can't get any more Goth than this song. And I agree.

I actually think this is one of the great things about Goth, it's accidental originators did not call themselves Goth nor are they necessarily Goth. Goth emerges out of punk and groups like the Sisters of Mercy and Bauhaus who played with the mysterious and death both lyrically and in sound. Bauhaus' quintessential Goth song "Bela Lagosi is Dead" was a playful piece that took on a life of it's own in concert as Bauhaus' fans reveled in it. Peter Murphy was not being Goth when he wrote that song, he perhaps though helped create Goth through that song. Goth emerged accidentally out of an accidental aesthetic.

The Sisters of Mercy play shrouded in the fog of smoke machines. As far as I can tell they have always done so. Ironically you just can't get any more Goth than hiding in fog and the stage lit from the back. This is erie and mysterious. At times you hear Eldritch but do not see him as he moves in and out of the fog, he appears and disappears.

My own sense is that Andrew Eldritch is a contrarian, and has no interest in Goth or any other scene. He is a damn fine musician and performer, and while he may not think much of the Goth scene, he knows and respected his Goth audience at the Metro Tuesday night. And there is nothing more Goth than being so Goth you aren't Goth.
This is perhaps one of the reasons Goth is so easily misunderstood: You aren't really Goth if you take yourself too seriously as a Goth (well that is the opinion of the Goths I know and like, Goth is serious play). But the Goth scene is as full of those who take themselves too seriously as it is filled with those who understand Goth is just a Rock subculture and club scene. But even then Goth seems to spill out into the rest of ones life, because it is also an aesthetic. And so Andrew Eldritch and the Sisters of Mercy and Bauhaus and Dead Can Dance all exemplify that aesthetic in differing and particular ways.

If you want to understand Goth at its various origins pick up a Sisters of Mercy album, a Bauhaus album, and a Dead Can Dance album. If you then want to understand Goth as it is then after listening to the above bands go find the local Goth club or Goth night, in Chicago Nocturna is your best bet. If you can make the connection between what you see and experience and the Sisters of Mercy Bauhaus and Dead Can Dance then you understand Goth. If you like Sisters of Mercy, Bauhaus and Dead can dance, and you like the Goth club and most of the people at the club, and most of the music played that night at the club then you are Goth, whether or not you wear black.
(PS. All of the above is said both with the utmost seriousness and playfully with tongue firmly planted in cheek.)