Silhouttes Statues

Various Artists – Silhouettes & Statues A Gothic Revolution 1978-1986 (Cherry Red)

Right, let’s get a couple of things straight from the outset. Firstly, this is not merely a dark trawl through the origins of goth and beyond, it also constitutes a rigorous examination of the fag-end of post-punk as it morphed into something more introspective and experimental. Secondly, this is no lazy ‘Best Of’ compilation. Sure, all our favourites raise their back-combed heads at some point but over the course of 5 CDs, 83 tracks and around six hours of collective bleak angst you are left with the sense that Britain was a pretty miserable place to live in the late 70s/early 80s.

Speaking as someone who lived through this era, it remains a tough ask to put Silhouettes & Statues into a modern context. We had a female Prime minister hell-bent on destroying the fabric of society, civil unrest in cities across the UK and the omnipresent threat of global conflict…hmm, perhaps now *is* the optimum time to dig up and reflect upon this most misunderstood of musical genres. But where do you start to review 83 tracks?

The answer is, you don’t even try. Allow me to do a swift roll call of the big hitters contained on this majestic release for whom I won’t even attempt to discuss in further detail; Bauhaus, The Sisters of Mercy, Joy Division, The Mission, PIL, The Cure and Fields of the Nephilim. However, the album cleverly circumnavigates the well-known hits and opts to place an emphasis on early or little-known tracks instead. Take All About Eve by way of example, a band often derided in goth circles for being far too twee and folky. ‘D For Desire’, their debut single. is totally off-kilter when compared to their later output and made me wish they had never signed to a major label.

The same can also be said of Adam And The AntsTabletalk‘ and ‘Q Quarters‘ by The Associates. No, the real sensory joy of Silhouettes & Statues is the love, care and attention which has clearly been poured into collating such a unique, exhaustive narrative of the era and must surely become the de facto starting point for all future generations wishing to investigate their goth heritage. Every track in the collection was recorded in the days when the internet was simply somewhere a Yorkshire fisherman put his catch, there has been no gravestone left unturned in the pursuit of creating a definitive musical mausoleum.

Far from being a depressing sub-culture, this collection demonstrates just how creative and experimental this period in our musical history was to become. ‘Fiends‘ by Portion Control could easily have provided a blueprint for much of what was to follow from Aphex Twin and ‘Among The Ruins‘ from Bushido is surely an embryonic seed for what was to later become OK Computer. Naturally, there is the occasional therapeutic descent into hell, don’t listen to Clock DVA with the lights off, ‘Female Mirror‘ makes The Cure sound as upbeat as The Beach Boys. Elsewhere, there is plenty of invective to enjoy with both Brigandage and Anorexic Dread rounding up the post-punk embers and laying them to rest. Oh, and if you still don’t believe this is relevant for 2017 then one listen to ‘Carnival of the Gullible‘ by In Excelsis will have you manning the barricades.

The only missing element is humour, it’s virtually devoid of the stuff, aside from S-Haters chanting “you’ve got to reach out for the forceps and stab it” which is hilariously ghoulish. The band names are, however, brilliant fun and if ever there was a Top Trumps of goth band names then Bone Orchard would win for me every time!

What really makes Silhouettes & Statues an essential purchase is the artefact itself. All 5 CDs are set in a beautifully bound book which contains a biography of all 83 acts and an overview of the genre penned by Natasha Sharf. The real hero, however, appears to be Richard Anderson who has painstakingly put this together and ought to be awarded the freedom of Whitby for his troubles. This is a truly magnificent and intelligently compiled collection of tracks which will have you harking back to the days of Dallas and Royal Weddings, a word of warning though, please don’t listen to all six hours at once. I did…and I now have a massive tattoo of Danielle Dax. You have been warned.

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.