Review: Bauhaus’ “Go Away White”

Mar 12, 2008 10:23am

Are you ready to feel old?  “Go Away White” is the first Bauhaus album in 25 years.  Apparently, according to this Billboard article the band broke up again shortly after recording it after an “incident.”  So, in other words, after “Go Away White,” the band basically intends to “go away” again.  It seems ironic for a bunch of goths to release an album drenched in white, but maybe that that’s just some sort of contrarian joke.  In the early eighties, Bauhaus were the band you went to if you were a bummed hipster looking for a place to wallow in your sadness.  Along with the Cure, and Siouxsie and the Banshees they were seminal in the gothic music movement.  With hits like the epic, nine-minute “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” and “In the Flat Field” they established themselves as dark masters of spookiness.  Anchored by the odd but intriguing lead singer, Peter Murphy, they were almost immediately set to become legends.  After their 1983 album, “Burning on the Inside,” the band broke up, with Murphy embarking on a solo career, and the other three members (David J, Daniel Ash and Kevin Haskins) forming Love and Rockets.  (You may remember Love and Rockets for their surprise 1989 mega-smash hit “So Alive.”) So how is “Go Away White?”  It’s not a fantastic record, but like most ultra-distant reunion records, it’s an adequate reminder of the band’s glory days.  Opener, “Too Much 21st Century” is a blues-flavored boogie, which unleashes Murphy at his glammiest.  He’s always had a little Bowie in him, (the band famously covered “Ziggy Stardust.”) and here is no exception.  The drama is evident in his voice as always and it’s almost like no time has passed.  The bass-line slinks along in a funked-out strut, and the drums kick along with the groove. “Adrenalin” is next with its doses of sonic feedback punctuation and its spoken word choruses.  Again, this track is the band returning to the top of their game. “Undone” is an oddly timed slice of moody rock.  The keyboards relive eighties glory, while other electronic effects sound more modern.  Vocally on this track, Murphy sounds a lot like his peer, Richard Butler of the Psychedelic Furs. “International Bulletproof Talent” continues the list of satisfying numbers.  Sure, it’s not ground-breaking, and they’ve done many tracks like this before, but it’s effective in its mission.  During the verses, it is cool when Murphy half-speaks and half-sings in his lowest register.  His guttural yells and almost flippant speaking tone on the track recall the work of another band, Killing Joke.  “Endless Summer of the Damned” is also strong, built around a creepy bass-line.  It doesn’t have much of a tune. It is more about mood and attitude, but it would be a good soundtrack for your next Halloween party.  “Saved” brings all the goodness to a grinding halt.  Over a very subtle beat, Murphy sings with the fervor of an over-zealous opera singer.  It plays almost like his audition for “Phantom of the Opera.”  (It might be interesting to see Peter Murphy as the phantom!)  That’s all well and good, but this track is a meandering, tuneless dirge.  Even a skilled vocalist like Murphy can’t save this unfocused track.  It is supposed to be scary and it sort of is, but it’s also quite awful.  Luckily, it is followed by one of the album’s strongest tracks, “Mirror Remains.”  Again, like almost all of the band’s best work, it’s built around a rubbery bass-line, a groove-driven beat and bits of guitar dissonance. Here, Murphy’s drama is more of an asset, though he does tend to still pour it on rather thickly.  “Black Stone Heart” is musically strong. Ash, J and Haskins are tight as ever, but Murphy is lost in vibrato-land, allowing his voice to veer off-course a little too much. His delivery is so dramatically affected, it nearly ruins the track.  In the beginning, “The Dog’s a Vapour” comes off as a better version of “Saved.” It is still a little overdone, but it is similarly minimalist. It also has much more of a structure. Murphy bellows “There’s something in you! The dog’s a vapour!” and a siren-like guitar and drum-assault begins.  It lasts until the end of the track, and stands as one of the defining moments of the album as a whole.    “Zikir” closes the disc.  It’s an ambient moment of peace with Murphy speaking a few words on top.  In the distance, unrest can be heard deep in the mix.  It’s a fitting closing moment.  In all “Go Away White” only has one misstep.  It should satisfy the longtime fans who’ve waited what seems like an eternity for new music.  But the album also has only a few real highlights.  In other words, the majority of it is more toward the middle of the road.  I suppose you might be able to chock that up to rustiness.  Had they managed to stay together, in a few years they might have produced another classic.  With Bauhaus now broken up again, what now?  I’m hoping for another Love and Rockets album.

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