(6) christian death, “figurative theatre”
put to bed
(5) PETER MURPHY, “ALL NIGHT LONG”
and land a spot in the final four
Read the essays, watch the videos, listen to the songs, feel free to argue below in the comments or tweet at us, and consider. Winner is the aggregate of the poll below and the @marchvladness twitter poll. Polls closed @ 9am Arizona time on March 23.
KATHLEEN ROONEY ON “ALL NIGHT LONG”
In the 1988 video for his solo single “All Night Long,” the skull of former Bauhaus vocalist Peter Murphy is obscenely gorgeous. Exalted, in fact. We taxpayers ought to fund the carving of his head onto a cliff—a goth Mount Rushmore. All four busts could be his exquisite visage in different poses. He’s a handsome, angular, living death’s head, deserving of a monument to his morbid beauty, worthy of serving as a collective memento mori.
I am not the only one who thinks so. In his rock memoir Who Killed Mister Moonlight: Bauhaus, Black Magick, and Benediction, Bauhaus bassist David J. Haskins recalls guitarist Daniel Ash introducing him to Murphy in the late 1970s: “Peter looked amazing. He had a preternatural beauty: high, chiseled cheekbones, pale skin, piercing blue eyes. He had his dirty blonde hair slicked back like a 1920s matinee idol. He moved with an elegant grace.”
In the “All Night Long” video, Murphy tosses in bed, his features troubled, shadows gathering beneath his sculptural cheekbones, the ne plus ultra of zygomatic arches. He sings, hollow-eyed, in a murky gray wood. How decadent to have bones so close to the surface of one’s face, to reveal the skull we’re all walking around topped off with. Look:
If music is playing in one’s proximity, it becomes virtually impossible not to hear it. Lately, I can’t not hear the dooming chords of climate disaster, and so must find a way to live in the sound.
Chris Baldick, editor of The Oxford Book of Gothic Tales, describes the Gothic as “a fearful sense of inheritance in time with the claustrophobic sense of enclosure in space, these two dimensions reinforcing one another to produce an impression of sickening descent into disintegration.” That’s basically how it feels to be on Earth right now: our home enclosure, the planet, growing ever more unhomely.
Every day brings a new nightmare announcement. On October 29, 2018, for instance, the Canadian Broadcasting Company reported that 60% of the world’s wildlife has been wiped out since 1970.
The following day, a report from Vox entitled “Weather 2050” warned that “America is warming fast,” and invited readers to “See how your city’s weather will be different in just one generation.” If you like your sick sense of dread hyper-specific, then you can click through, but if you prefer your unease vague, then their analysis shows that in virtually every case, the places we all live are going “to be strikingly warmer in a few decades.” Moreover, “For those who can’t afford to move to cool off from the heat, or find work when local agriculture dries up and fisheries die, these changes will be devastating.”
In her book Gothic Music: The Sounds of the Uncanny, Isabella van Elferen distinguishes between horror and the Gothic. Horror, she argues, “explicitly brings the feared object onto the screen, into the relatively controllable space of the visible.” In doing so, “horror paradoxically comforts the viewer through the relative control vision gives: at least in horror films, we can scream at what we are afraid of.” Gothic, she says, “conversely, employs the implicit dread of terror, leaving the object of fear implicit, just outside perception. In Gothic cinema transgression is hinted at through shadows and camera angles, but always only present through absence, leading audiences not to the comfort of sight but rather to the discomfort of the uncanny.” Gruesome as it is, climate change feels more Gothic than horror, at least so far (though bursts of violent excess—heat waves, hurricanes, wildfires, floods—do keep ripping through the skin of the normal). The specters of global warming that haunt me the most here in Chicago, a northern and supposedly chilly city, are the ones that manifest as absences. What could be more uncanny than yearning for the usual snow in winter but receiving none? Reaching out with your whole body to feel the weather you’ve always expected and loved, only to find it creepily not present?
My sorrow for a dead and headstoned past in which seasons could be depended upon mixes with a need to learn to swim in the gloomy soup of the future, overheated, oceanic, and fast approaching. I am trying not to be afraid; I am trying to forge an authentic relationship to death.
For that purpose, I propose Peter Murphy’s peerless and ethereal head as a talisman and his defiantly moody song “All Night Long” as an anthem.
Memento mori—Latin for Remember that you will die: a medieval Christian tradition of meditating on the vanity of earthly life and the transient character of worldly pursuits. The prospect of one’s own death has unparalleled potential to frighten; for that reason, many people prefer to leave the subject unthought of. Yet in memento mori one gains mastery of that fear by coming at it directly: staring unblinking into its bony face.
My favorite account of this ritual as practiced in the 1500s tells of a clergyman called John Fisher who, when saying Mass, was “always accustomed to set upon one end of the altar a dead man’s scull, which was also set before him at his table when he dyned or supped.”
If the inexorability of one’s own death has the power to terrify, how much more so does the artificially hastened inevitability of collective death that we now know ourselves as a species to be both the cause and the victim of? To even have a chance of keeping global warming below a still fairly catastrophic 1.5 degree threshold, “by the middle of the century, societies would need to have zero net emissions.” At the rate we’re going, this goal remains unreachable. Individual actions have little to no effect and political responses remain entirely inadequate. It is not pessimistic or defeatist, merely honest, to acknowledge that the end has already happened and we’re just living in the echo.
In order to let that echo be something that that one can listen to without being destroyed by it, we can set Murphy’s head in the “All Night Long” video at our shared earthly table: Remember, we will all die—an attractive and a repellant reminder simultaneously, unsettling yet comforting.
For his fourth solo studio album, 1992’s Holy Smoke, Murphy had the English musical journalist Paul Morley do his press release. “I know very little about Peter Murphy,” Morley began:
I know his name, and I know the shape of his head, because it’s a shape I’ve always been very jealous of. I think anyone with a head shaped like that, all kind of sharp and hollow and almost sinister, must have something of the magical about him. I wonder if it’s a fluke that he has a head like that, a splendid accident of birth, or has it been sheer vain anxious willpower that has shaped Peter Murphy’s head into something so positively Artaudian, if you’ll pardon my French. I also know that he has eyes as hollow as a dream, eyes that seem incapable of shame, and a decayed mouth that could but for the grace of God eat you alive and kiss you to death.
In an age of shameless climate change, we are eating ourselves alive; we are puckering up to be our own kiss of death.
In their book Goth: Undead Subculture, editors Lauren M.E. Goodland and Michael Bibby note that within the Gothic sensibility, death itself is “typically perceived as a source of inspiration rather than a terminus.” Can the contemplation of our impending collective demise be inspirational rather than paralyzing? Can a song like “All Night Long” afford its listeners a symbolic solution to the question of how to keep living in the disempowerment of the Anthropocene?
“All Night Long” comes from Murphy’s album Love Hysteria. The disrupted global climate can make a person hysterical. I love the Earth so much and don’t want it to die. I’m not afraid of my own death so much as of everyone’s; I’m not afraid of my own death so much as my own suffering. An awareness of the Anthropocene means to dwell in a perpetual mourning for the planet and all the living things on it that we’ve extirpated and are extirpating, including ourselves.
But goth asserts as positive a tragic grasp of the truth: that all of the enchantment, passion, and beauty of existence will ultimately conclude with degradation. So too does goth remind the listener—or at least this listener—that the fact that everything is shadowed with its own demise is nothing new. It has always been thus. Every life story shares the same last chapter. So while climate change’s death is massive and on a scale heretofore unseen, it’s still, essentially, a variation on the same mortal theme. The death we’re facing now dwarfs individual consciousness, but it’s still just death. How horrible and yet how reassuring.
In the video for “All Night Long,” a restless Peter Murphy cannot sleep. He’s either insomniac or having ghastly dreams. When he’s not in bed, he’s out in a mist-obscured landscape amid the wan wraiths of leafless trees. “The air is wild open,” he sings. We see that it is also filled with gloomth, Gothic novelist Horace Walpole’s 1753 coinage for the perversely pleasing grim ambience of the Gothic.
Murphy’s bedsheets ripple like a blasted waste, a desert landscape void of life. Or like a boundless ocean, whispering and groaning. Wet hair streaks his cadaverous face, like black liquid—blood? Like tentacles from the deep? Like the “siren’s curl” in the lyrics he sings? Pearls spill like snow that will fall no longer. The line about “the see-saw smile” evokes the swings of climate change.
A figure wanders in an overgrown terrain, barbed wire blocking her way from time to time as Murphy sings, “Yeah, the seasons come in / All the nights are woven.” In horror movies, music warns characters of their impending death. Murphy’s song does this in an anthemic and transcendent way—a nocturnal fight song where night is not for sleeping.
I sometimes imagine the globe getting so hot that we’ll have to invert our uses of day and night, sleeping like vampires through the sun’s worst heat; coming out in darkness when the temperature will be bearable. The night described by Murphy seems as welcoming as it is forbidding.
Composer and musical theorist Jonathan Kramer argues that music creates its own temporality. “Does music exist in time or does time exist in music?” he asks. “If we believe in the time that exists uniquely in music, then we begin to glimpse the power of music to create, alter, distort, or even destroy time itself, not simply our experience of it.” The annihilating and transporting traits of musical time transmit through the very timbre of Murphy’s voice, communicating something almost incommunicable, something beyond the measurements of minutes and hours and the parameters of words.
At the time of Love Hysteria’s release, Murphy said to Record Mirror: “I wanted to reflect a sense of happiness, strength and optimism which I am currently feeling.” Visually and sonically, “All Night Long” is a song that says even—or maybe especially—when things are hard, keep going.
In his book, Dark Entries: Bauhaus and Beyond, Ian Shirley writes that “Indeed the songs [on Love Hysteria] are extremely polished and given great depth,” and that Murphy’s “singing shows greater depth and maturity.” Murphy himself observed, “I was confident now that I did have a good voice away from that very histrionic experimental guttural approach that Bauhaus had.”
He uses his baritone to boom and soar. He uses it to croon. Is crooning soothing? Yes and no. Etymology reveals this style of singing’s bifurcated effect. Originating around 1400 in Scottish, it means “to speak or sing softly”—how gentle, now nice. But compare that derivation to the Middle Dutch kronen, “to lament, mourn.” It can be a comfort to lament—to say “I’m sad,” and have someone else acknowledge the sadness.
In the (too-warm) summer of 2018 in Chicago, I was in an experimental play called L’Heure Bleue, put on by the Runaways Lab Theater, in which I was one of five actors playing a version of a character called Judy. For the interactive cocktail hour preceding the show, my Judy sat at a desk with a typewriter, asking people to help her make a Compendium of Memories through a series of personal but anonymous questions. The final one was “Are you afraid of the future?” The hardest time I had staying in character was when someone confidently and quickly responded “No!” How? I wanted to ask, thinking of climate change. How is the future not utterly fucking terrifying? But the script dictated that I had to thank and encourage them to move on.
I am going to miss fruit when agriculture collapses. I am going to miss being able to walk around outside when it grows too sweltering. And so I am searching for an ars moriendi—an art of dying. We’ll all have to do it, so why not think about how to die well? “All Night Long” in particular and goth in general provide instructive texts. Regal in his disquiet, Peter Murphy seems upset but self-possessed.
There’s a medical concept called the facies hippocratica, the Hippocratic face, which refers to the countenance of someone about to die—a literal death’s head, produced by long illness, wasting, excessive hunger and so forth. Here in the Anthropocene, the Earth wears this face. Because we are on the Earth, this face hard to see, but if you pay attention you can feel it: the face that we require to survive and the face that we are murdering.
What to listen to while the planet is dying? Goth music, of course, the soundtrack for when you’re sick with dread and seeking to transcend it.
The weirdest part of “All Night Long” arrives at 2:33, when in the video the knife point glints and the French growling begins. The little nightcap that Murphy has been wearing in bed now implies the appearance of ears, like he’s part beast.
In fact, these lines are a clip from the 1946 Jean Cocteau film La Belle et La Bête, aka Beauty and the Beast (which features another heck of a head, another sterling set of cheekbones, belonging to Jean Marais in the title role).
Translated, the passage goes as follows:
A rose that played its role
My mirror, my gold key, my horse, and my glove
Are the five secrets of my power
I’ll give them to you
If you put this glove on your right hand
It will transport you to where you desire to be
Where do we humans as a species desire to be? Death obsessed and yet undead, much goth music is characterized by a melancholy otherworldliness. Who in this world who pays attention is not sad? Who in this world would not want to live in another?
We are all part beast, all part animal. There is no outside, no separating ourselves from “nature.” We haven’t destroyed “nature,” we have destroyed ourselves. Murphy’s song has been described as an us-against-the-world one, but, of course, in the end, the world is us.
I used to consider the Hans Holbein the Younger painting The Ambassadors well-done, but goofy—a fun silly gimmick.
Like wow, sweet anamorphosis and good work on a hyper-realistic painting of a couple learnèd dudes and their sumptuous accoutrements, but what the hell is with the huge skull looming in the foreground like a kitschy Magic Eye? But lately I’ve come to respect Holbein’s death’s head. Because in a sense, the painting resembles how climate disaster functions. No matter how lovely or well-executed a day is, I can’t go for long without being reminded. Without seeing it. Without the stupid whack-a-mole cranium of uncontrolled, uncontrollable global warming popping up with its empty eyes to bore into mine.
And so I am working daily on a way to deal with that knowledge. “All Night Long” is a reminder that maybe the Gothic can be that strategy. Dead and undead. Escapist and accepting simultaneously. Because for all its scary trappings, much goth music is not really scary, because much goth music is not really trying to terrify, but rather to naturalize death and evil to make them less daunting.
Climatologically, we may be surrounded by ghosts—haunted by all the futures we’ll never get to live—and there may be very little of what could be considered hope, but that’s still no excuse for us not to keep going. Or if not to keep going, then to be able to sit and live with the tumult.
In 1982, shortly before Bauhaus broke up, the British commercial filmmaker Howard Guard directed Murphy in a television ad for Maxell tapes. Stylishly attired, he sits in a sleek leather armchair, blasted by the sonic excellence of a Maxell recording of Mussorgsky’s “Night on Bald Mountain.”
The break-the-sound-barrier quality barely causes Murphy to turn his death’s head. As the plants, the decorative wooden ducks, and even his own tie are buffeted in the musical melee, Murphy has found a way to rest calmly, elegantly inside the storm. When he casts his unflappable gaze over his shoulder at the camera at 0:22, he seems to say wordlessly, You can do this, too.
In their book Goth Music: From Sound to Subculture, Isabella van Elferen and Jeffrey Andrew Weinstock point out that:
The most obvious example of goth’s foregrounding death as a way to transcend it can be seen by starting with the most familiar—indeed, iconic—goth subcultural style: cadaverous white-face, often accentuated by black hair, clothing, and black or red make-up. […] The animate corpse uncannily foregrounds death in the present and thereby acts as an affront to the living who seek to repress the anxious awareness of mortality. When confronted with a corpse, one is forcibly reminded of one’s own ephemerality and of the inevitable corruption of the body.
So I wish for myself and for everyone else being emotionally chewed up by climate catastrophe to get to a state where we can put on “All Night Long” and a black outfit and look our own skulls straight in the eyes and say, “We are all going to die, and that’s sad but fine.”
Kathleen Rooney is a founding editor of Rose Metal Press, a nonprofit publisher of literary work in hybrid genres, as well as a founding member of Poems While You Wait, a team of poets and their typewriters who compose commissioned poetry on demand. She teaches in the English Department at DePaul University, and her most recent books include the national best-seller, Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk (St. Martin’s Press, 2017) and The Listening Room: A Novel of Georgette and Loulou Magritte (Spork Press, 2018). Her criticism appears in The New York Times Magazine, The Poetry Foundation website, The New York Times Book Review, The Chicago Tribune, The Paris Review, The Los Angeles Review of Books, and elsewhere. She lives in Chicago with her spouse, the writer Martin Seay. Follow her at @KathleenMrooney
ELANA LEVIN ON “FIGURATIVE THEATRE”
I: IN THE KNEE-DEEP GRAVES / OF FUTURE SURVIVORS
This was the life of an artist, a true Romantic who sacrificed normality, health and happiness for the sake of vision, and a man overcome and destroyed by the demons he lived with: a tragedy. —Ron Athey, performance artist and former boyfriend of Christian Death founder Rozz Williams
“It is my feeling that Rozz always considered himself a “communicant” of death, transmitting to this world from beyond. Indeed I believe he was anxious to return to a non-corporeal state and thereby escape the horror of the world he commonly referred to as the “living dead.” —Ryan Wildfyre, poet, Rozz’s roommate and best friend.
Rozz Williams, founder of Christian Death, committed suicide at age 34. He hung himself on April Fools Day, 1998, leaving a tarot card of The Fool and a rose on the table after watching a film about tragic dancer Isadora Duncan.
Rozz killed himself in the middle of the massively successful Goth scene revival that I was a part of.
In the Pandemonium of Goth, Bauhaus were minimalist, Sisters of Mercy were the dancey-est, Joy Division the first-est no matter their objections, Siouxsie the maximal-est, and The Cure the mopiest.
BUT CHRISTIAN DEATH WERE THE ROCKING-EST, THE SCARIEST, AND THE GAY-EST.
Goth is a genre where gender non-conformity is foundational, as generations of fans of all genders wearing cleopatra eyeliner with waistcoats can attest. As far as I know, CD founder Rozz Williams was the only openly gay person in Goth’s first round. The queer voice has everything to do with his singing and his lyrics.
In 1982, a 20-year old Rozz recorded Christian Death’s debut album Only Theater of Pain with Rikk Agnew (of The Adolescents), James McGearty, and George Belanger. The media had begun reporting on a “Gay Cancer” epidemic. No one knew exactly what the fuck was killing gay and bi men in their prime all over California. You know, California, where Rozz lived.
II: THE FLESHLESS GUESTS LIVE OFF CHILDREN OF THE PAST / THEIR AGING FINGERS CAST THE SHADOW OF DEATH
Track 1: “First Communion”
I sit and hold hands with myself
I sit and make love to myself
I've got blood on my hands
I've got blood on your hands
I've got blood on my hands
I've got blood on your hands
Blood on our hands
Blood on our hands
Rozz was a gay teen singing about blood, loneliness, guilt and death at the start of Gay Cancer the AIDS crisis. He killed himself the same year that the major HIV treatment breakthrough—Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy aka the triple cocktail—became standard care, making HIV a manageable illness.
Rozz grew up in a Southern Baptist household in Orange County California. This was Reagan country. Reagan: the man who let millions die of AIDS.
Blood of Christ. Blood of death.
According to the scene’s rumor mill, one of Rozz’s former lovers had died of AIDS right before Rozz’s suicide. We do know that one of his best friends had just overdosed on heroin. That best friend’s lover has written that Rozz refused to be tested.
The album’s opening track fades perfectly into the rumbling baseline of “Figurative Theater,” my nominee for the 2019 March Vladness Best Goth Song.
III: THE LUXURIES OF PAST DAYS ARE / THE LUXURIES OF OUR DAYS
Track 2: “Figurative Theater”
Their razor sharp tongues
Invite to relax
As they slip the skin of your
Get into the act
With roses and candles
Silver knives and spoons
2006: When in the course of the first phase of my courtship of my husband, where we just played music at each other all the time to catch up on a life’s worth of “you really need to listen to this,” it came time for me to break out the goth tapes.
I hadn’t heard “Figurative Theater” since 2000. I’d stopped going to Goth nights when I realized I was more likely to hear ‘80s Goth at a Britpop Night than at a Goth/Industrial Night where Industrial and EBM had taken over every set list.
I remember specifically when I played Figurative Theater for him on the boombox in my apartment. It felt a lifetime since I listened to it. But I still knew every last percussive, gothic word to the song. I was compelled to sing along even if it meant my husband was hearing my voice on top of Rozz’s.
My husband’s primary musical genre is Scandinavian Black Metal but he instantly got Christian Death when I played them. “Spiritual Cramp” was his favorite track though, “it has the best riff.”
“Slip the skin of your eyelids back” Whose eyelids? Our eyelids! We are offered up as food at a romantic cannibalistic dinner. And the theater—we are being watched. This is the Theater of Pain, the next stop of artistic evolution after Antonin Artaud’s Theater of Cruelty.
Persona-read women dance with priests on a side road
Your vision perspectives are turning to stone
Cabaret slideshow stars shooting their loads
Act one is the end and the show now begins.
Breath ballet prancers spin on porcelain backbones
A child's muddled cry turns into hilarity
Rozz is describing the Grand Guignol of Hell. Critic Justin “Thunder” Lager compared the lyrics to a Hieronymus Bosch painting. That’s a perfect description of the hellscapes painted by Rozz’s lyrics here and elsewhere—horrific, spectacular, specific acts in miniature.
Your gothic teenage lyrics aren’t that good. Honestly, no-one else in the genre’s lyrics are as consistently good as those written by Rozz and his collaborators like Gitane Demone, Eva O Halo, and yes, even Valor Kand—who, despite being History's Greatest Monster for stealing the band's name after Rozz left, still made significant contributions.
On this, his debut album, Rozz sings about child sacrifices, holocausts, and systemic rape; but also queer desire, luxury, and transcendence. His voice is distinctly queer—so decadent, so tired, a femmier and even more dramatic Bowie. (The covers of Bowie’s Time (live!) and Panic in Detroit that Rozz went on to record are devastating for a reason.)
Only Theater of Pain’s songs include Latin, riffs on Christian prayers recited both forwards and in backwards speech sold with utter conviction, and an entire track of moaning called “Prayer” (which I do skip). There’s a song that’s absolutely made for belly-dancing. And there’s frequent use of the word “sodomy” in songs like “Burnt Offerings”: “Sodomized and tired...” “No moon shining like the untouched ass of the boy next door.” What more could any goth want?
IV: AND WHAT ABOUT THE BELLS?
Only Theater of Pain sounds like nobody else. Let’s dig in to why with “Figurative Theatre.”
Like a lot of heavy music Only Theater of Pain avoids major keys, but it also avoids the standard minor keys that most bands with a dark aesthetic use—and that’s pretty unique to Christian Death. The songs live in the heavy underworld of the Kumoi Scale (a scale derived from the tuning of a koto—a Japanese zither) and Phrygian Mode. (David Levin assisted in music theory research. David learned Music Theory at Oberlin, goth rock from his big sister Elana.). They love a good minor second interval, much like metal gods Metallica would come to in the late 80s. Who knows, maybe Christian Death inspired The Black Album—they are all Californians. When guitarist Rikk Agnew holds those long and droning notes during the verses, it sounds a bit like a koto’s resonance, or maybe it’s the sound of a guitar moaning.
Crunchy, distorted and with loads of feedback, Agnew’s guitars rock harder than any of the other early goth bands. He is drawing from California punk—Agnew was in the legendary punk band the Adolescents. West Coast Goth was first called Death Rock before it met up with its UK equivalent and became part of an international movement.
Thundering in to bridge “Cavity - First Communion” to “Figurative Theater” is James McGearty’s bass—absolutely driving and leading the song. The bass line is the melody. Unlike The Sisters of Mercy and lots of later goth bands, George Belanger plays like (and is) a real live drummer, not a drum machine or live drummer imitating a drum machine. He plays punk drums at a somewhat slower rock tempo, the template which went on to define the Gothic Rock Sound—keeping the ROCK in Goth Rock. His cymbals explode in between the fills like he’s trying to kill the number 4.
Christian Death went on to making songs in a major key sound equally haunting on their next album the equally brilliant and wildly different Catastrophe Ballet, but here they were still inventing the genre. With all these unusual modes and scales, aggression and distortion, this is the opposite of a pop album.
V: FLOWERS OF DOOM ALL BLOOM IN PROSPERITY
I was born in 1979. Like most folks of my generation I discovered Christian Death on a Cleopatra Records’ Gothic Rock compilation, (Volume 2 to be precise). I was in High School and my love for this band was immediate. Each song I heard only made me love them more.
I was a freshman in college when Rozz committed suicide. I found out about Rozz’s death immediately before departing to a conference for college student activists for reproductive rights. No one there with me knew Christian Death. The scene there was more Lilith fair (ugh) or Le Tigre (Good Feminists actually on the cultural zeitgeist). So I mourned alone. Goth as fuck.
His death inspired me to cold-call longtime Goth bible Propaganda Magazine and say I’d like to write for them. After a day of driving around Peekskill, New York with magazine founder Fred Berger location-scouting for a spooky hospital photoshoot, I was brought on to write reviews. Including a book which had just been released: From Christian Death to Death: The Art of Rozz Williams.
VI: UNGRACIOUS FREELOADERS / LEAVE THEIR DEAD ON A DOORSTEP
Only Theater of Pain was the first CD I put in our rental car as my future husband Frank and I drove clear across Puerto Rico at midnight. And it was the only CD we played all vacation because it immediately got stuck in the rental car’s stereo. We began to joke that it was “beach music.”
When we returned the car to the rental company I told them about the jammed CD, and won’t they please get it out of the stereo? They brushed me off. So I said “I don’t think you understand—there’s a goth CD wailing about sodomy stuck in the car stereo.” No response.
I like imagining the midwestern Christians who inevitably rented this car next with my CD jammed in it. It's what I needed to listen to when I first heard it. Maybe their kids discovered it’s just what they needed to listen to too.
(Excellent 1993 live performance video of the original band performing Only Theater of Pain produced by Cleopatra Records)
Elana Levin podcasts at the intersection of comics, geek culture and politics as Graphic Policy Radio. While in college in the late ‘90s she wrote for goth bible Propaganda Magazine. If you were in the DC scene then you’ve probably met. Elana has written about comics and politics for sites including the Daily Beast, Graphic Policy and Comics Beat and would love to have the opportunity to write about music more often. Elana tweets as @Elana_Brooklyn and teaches digital strategy for progressive campaigns and nonprofits.