My record collection (part 65: …getting my goth on)

Sisters of Mercy band photo

Back in the early days of this blog, I had had the brilliant idea of creating playlist-slash-mixed tapes based on the different sub-genres that had been stuffed under the “Alternative” genre umbrella. Incidentally, but definitely not coincidentally, I posted a goth playlist just in time for Halloween 2012 that I entitled, “Time to get your goth on“. I mention this in August 2016, mired in the depths of summer heat and sun, because I just received on my doorstep a vinyl reissue of one of my favourite “goth” albums of all time.

Sisters of Mercy 'Vision Thing' box set

Indeed, when I heard last summer that Sisters of Mercy’s debut album, “First and last and always”, was going to be released as a box set with the 12″ singles from the album, each of the four discs on 180 gram vinyl, my interest was piqued. Then, a month or so later, when it was announced that the goth innovator’s sophomore effort, “Floodland”, was getting the same treatment, I was sorely tempted and more than once thought about clicking on the “Order” button on Amazon. Then, finally, this year I caught wind of the box set release of 1990’s “Vision thing”, their third and so far final album, and I didn’t hesitate for a moment.

This set has been on pre-order with Amazon for over two months and thankfully for me, the price dropped to a respectable amount but even at its highest price, this set is worth every penny. Each disc was remastered from the original master tapes and pressed to 180 gram vinyl and the singles play at 45 rpm. It all sounds very lovely, brilliantly dark and intelligent and angry. There were two huge bonuses for me with this set: first, the B-side track on the 12″ single for the mighty anthem “More” is a track I heard never heard before, called “You could be the one”, and is simply amazing, and secondly, the set came with a download card for the whole set, which means I have been listening to this set for most of the week, even before I had had the time to give it a spin on the turntable last night. I am enjoying this set so much that all of a sudden, that set for “Floodland” is back on my radar.

And since we’re talking about recent additions to my record collection in the “goth” oeuvre, I thought I’d mention one more album that his graced my collection of late.

Dead Can Dance 'Into the labyrinth' on vinyl

I know, I know, Dead Can Dance aren’t really and truly a goth band. But seriously, name me a band that has been pigeon-holed in this genre that actually considers themselves goth. Andrew Eldritch of the Sisters of Mercy hated the term. Yet still, the folk and world music Australian “project” led by Lisa Gerrard and Brendan Perry has been the darling of goth fanatics everywhere since their inception. And while I am not a fan of all their work, I love their album from 1993, “Into the labyrinth”, especially the incredible Brendan Perry penned single, “The ubiquitous Mr. Lovegrove”. So when I saw it being reissued, I jumped at the chance at purchasing it for my shelves. The double disc version I received was graced with cover art I didn’t recognized, definitely different from the CD version I already owned, and included two songs on the fourth side that I had never heard before: “Bird” and “Spirit”. These two tracks were apparently bonus tracks on the 1991 compilation album “A passage in time” and while quite lovely, don’t quite feel like they fit this album. Not that I am complaining at receiving extra material…

But I digress and since this post was inspired by my excitement at receiving the ‘Vision thing’ box set, here is one of the great tracks off of that album: “Doctor jeep”.

And yeah, here is the obligatory turntable shot, taken during its first spin…

'Vision Thing' on the turntable

Best tunes of 1990: #13 The Sundays “Here’s where the story ends”

The Sundays

You might’ve noticed that things have been a bit quiet around these parts since the musical blitz that was Ottawa Bluesfest. I saw some incredible shows there this year and then, spent the ensuing fortnight on vacation. I was decompressing and being, well, a bit lazy. My wife and I spent a week in Toronto, where we visited her family, some old friends, and basically, played like tourists in our old stomping grounds. It was a great week, albeit ridiculously hot and humid for the majority of the days.

So in fact, this entry on my Best tunes of 1990 series is a perfect track to start back in on. The Sundays’ “Here’s where the story ends” epitomizes for me the dog days of summer. It is jangly and full of sunshine, yet you don’t have to make a lot of movements to be able to dance to it, which is great because anything more than an Ally Sheedy/ragdoll twirl will have you sweating buckets in this heat. The peppy yet subdued guitar strumming backbone of the song reminds me of The Smiths but Harriet Wheeler’s vocals are completely different than those of Morrissey. Less affected and more natural and yes, actually cheerful.

The Sundays were formed by Wheeler and David Gavurin in 1988. While they added members to become a four piece by the time they recorded any material, the original duo were the main creative force behind this British alternative rock band. They released their debut album, “Reading, writing, and arithmetic”, in 1990 and it was a creative and commercial success, reaching number 4 on the UK charts and 39 in the US, mostly on the back of “Here’s where the story ends”. They released two more albums in the nineties, with each selling about the same amount of units as the debut. After that, silence. They have never officially broken up but it’s been almost twenty years since their last release. Apparently, Wheeler and Gavurin, after taking time away to raise their two children, have been working on new material, but it’s anyone’s guess as to whether it will ever see the light of day. The couple are notorious for taking their time and are perfectionists when it comes to their own music.

Still, we have a pretty solid body of work from the band in the 1990s. “Here’s where the story ends” is a particularly lovely slice of joy.


For the rest of the Best tunes of 1990 list, click here.

Song(s) in my head today: Wolf Parade “C’est la vie way / Floating world”

Sounds like: Wolf Parade missed themselves as much as we missed them

Wolf ParadeDan Boeckner of Wolf ParadeSpencer Krug of Wolf Parade

Those of you who might have been following my exploits at Ottawa Bluesfest these past few weeks, especially the more observant among you who remembered that I purchased a five night pass, might be wondering what happened to my final review. Indeed, I did attend the festival one more time, last Saturday, the 16th to be exact, but at some point during the day, I put away the proverbial notepad and decided to just enjoy the day’s weather, the beer, and the performances. However, in the intervening days, I’ve been listening almost non-stop to the music of the night’s headliner on the Monster Energy stage, and a strong contender for my favourite set of the festival, Wolf Parade.

I was first turned on to their music with their incredible, Polaris Prize-nominated debut album, “Apologies to the Queen Mary”, over a decade ago. There was something ridiculously invigorating in the Canadian quartet’s off-kilter and raw alt-rock sound. And instead of being a source of detraction, the very different singing styles of the two principal songwriters, Spencer Krug and Dan Boeckner, served as a rallying point and set them apart from very their peers. Unfortunately, I wasn’t quite as enthused with their follow up, 2008’s “At mount zoomer”, and though 2010’s “Expo 86” was a marked return to form, it was their debut that I kept returning to. And of course, when they announced their hiatus in 2011, I was quite disappointed that I never got a chance to see them live.

Both Krug and Boeckner have always been quite prolific with other projects – Krug with Frog Eyes, Sunset Rubdown, and Swan Lake and Boeckner with Handsome Furs, Divine Fits, and Operators – but these only increased with Wolf Parade’s dissolution. And though I always loved Krug’s songs on “Queen Mary”, I could never (with the exception of a few Sunset Rubdown tunes) get into his other bands, much like Dan Bejar’s Destroyer, without a sounding board (Boeckner), his songs were just too weird for me. On other hand, pretty much every pot that Boeckner had his fingers in, I loved. I finally got to see him live last summer at last year’s Bluesfest with his new band, Operators, and was struck at the time by his humility, the complete absence of rockstar arrogance, and in its place, only a passion for music.

And so when Wolf Parade announced they were reforming earlier this year, I was clamouring to learn when and where I could catch them on their tour. And when they released an EP of new material in May, I was right there, fully expecting greatness and rightly so. All four songs are explosive, with Krug and Boeckner penning and supplying vocals for two songs apiece. The video below is of the band performing the final two songs on the EP together as one, much as I remember them doing on Saturday night. Krug’s inimitable vocals grace “C’est la vie way” over a wash of swirling synths and driving guitars and Boeckner takes up the anthem with his rock and roll throwback sensibilities on “Floating world”. It’s like the two push each other headlong into excellence.

And you can see it live. I knew what I was going to get with Boeckner and his frenetic and jittery guitar playing but I was equally impressed with Krug, hammering at the keys like a slightly more crazed Jerry Lee Lewis. And the rest of the band too, Arlen Thompson on drums and Dante DeCaro on guitars, provided their own energy and passion to the performance. There was little to no banter with the audience but none of us seemed to care. It was just enough for all us to be there, experiencing the music and shouting along to our favourite Wolf Parade songs, like “Dear sons and daughters of hungry ghosts”, “You are a runner and I am my father’s son”, “Fancy claps”, “Oh you, old thing”, and “I’ll believe in anything”. The only real disappointment during their set was when it came to an end and they didn’t return for an encore.

These two songs give a sampling as to what it was to see them live and if they can manage to carry this through to a full LP worth of songs, their next album (I’m hoping there will be one) could very well be the album of the decade.

The photos at the top of this post are just a few of those that I took at the show. For more, check out the album on my Facebook page.