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Thursday, July 03, 2008

THE SKY'S GONE OUT









When I met Hazmat back in 1989 we began a reciprocating musical education relationship that continues to this day. I gave him Uriah Heep, and he gave me Bauhaus. The mutual edification did not end with those bands, but they sum up the basis of the deal. I turned him on to lost 70's Rock bands, and he turned me on to seminal Punk and Post-Punk bands.




Of all the assorted and sundry acts that Hazmat turned my attention to, Bauhaus is my favorite. I had heard their cover of 'Ziggy Stardust' back in 1984 when a friend at the University of Maryland let me make a mix tape of some of his records. The tape included The Damned's cover of 'White Rabbit', and the Dead Kennedy's 'Too Drunk to Fuck' among other forgotten tunes, but the Bauhaus had struck a chord in me. Their version of 'Ziggy' retained all the urgency and Englishness of Bowie while taking the power up a notch. Bauhaus' 'Ziggy' fairly slams, it's almost Metal. With that notion in mind, I was keen on Hazmat's suggestion that I pick up a copy of Bauhaus' 'The Sky's Gone Out'.



Bauhaus was decidedly not Metal.



That was okay though because the album rocked well enough.



Opening with a cover of Eno's 'Third Uncle', Bauhaus displayed a heaviness that pleased. A driving thumper of a bass line delivered by David J propels the tune at a rapid pace while Daniel Ash provides the edgy echo laden guitar histrionics that are a staple of the Bauhaus sound. Kevin Haskins' steady and sympathetic drums complete the galloping sound scape over which Peter Murphy channels a madness infused Bowie vocal style.



To call Murphy a Bowie clone does a disservice to both of them, but the comparison is unavoidable. Peter has more insanity in his delivery, almost like the sick offspring of Iggy and Bowie.



'The Silent Hedges' finds the band in more ethereal territory with chimey guitars and sparse kick and snare drums. Then the fuzz bass kicks in and brings the tune toward frenzy, going to hell again......again, again.



'In the Night' is next, and it's clunky off time rhythm creates another musical space on this very dynamic record, but it's the fourth track, 'Swing the Heartache' that truly delivers what could be deemed the classic Bauhaus sound: simple drum patterns twisted with processing coupled with thumping sedentary bass under mad echo guitar noises that suddenly switch to searing melodies briefly before returning to chaos while Murphy emphatically demands the incomprehensible from us.



It's big stuff. Heady stuff. Art.



Side One ends with 'Spirit', and while I know it's a favorite of Hazmat's (actually, I think he prefers the single version over the LP track), I'm not a huge fan of the tune. To me it's an obvious attempt at accessibility and commercial success with it's pandering hook; "We love our audience, we love our audience,....."



Flipping the record brings a total mood alteration. 'The Three Shadows' (Parts 1, 2, and 3) is down tempo and sparse with the drums, piano, and guitar blended, washed with reverb, and buried in the mix on top of which Peter Murphy waxes poetic, a poetry Guy de Maupassant might have inspired. Part 3 picks up in tempo, and weirdness with crazy tuned acoustic guitars and treated piano. Murphy rises to the occasion.



'All We Ever Wanted Was Everything' follows and briefly brings us back to some sense of normalcy with it's layered acoustic guitars and chanting vocal melody, but it quickly passes and in it's place come 'Exquisite Corpse' which continues the general wackiness. Instruments come and go, sometimes dropping out altogether while Murphy informs us that 'life is but a dream'. Well, 'Exquisite Corpse' is one fucking loon of a dream. Suddenly the band falls in with a beautiful arrangement, but don't get too comfortable because soon it turns dark as Ash starts talking about something equally incomprehensible heralding Murphy's desperate screaming 'the sky's gone out', then it all stops, a quick Caribbean feel falls in which quickly degenerates into more madness until finally the sky does go out.



Bauhaus is not for everyone, not then, and not now, but for the adventurous listener, someone who enjoys creative and inventive production values, Bauhaus is a must.

Comments:
Wow, you have a great memory. Yeah, I did always have a thing for the single version of Spirit. And both, plus Ziggy, are on at least the British version of the CD. In later years I've become a big fan of David J's bass playing. I think all their albums are worth checking out. The last, Burning From The Inside, is interesting in that Peter Murphy was sick during the recording, so they went on without him for part of the record, making it sort of an early Love and Rockets record. Smart guys, too, since if it's true, Swing the Heartache, the BBC Sessions, has so much material because while most bands would wait to write songs until they were getting their free studio time, Bauhaus would have all the writing done and just record record record.

I think the one thing we never found a middle ground on was the Beastie Boys. I've come to appreciate them, but still not enough to own an album from them.
 
The thing with the BBC stuff is that if you were going to be on Top of the Pops or any other TV show, you had to re-record the song in their studio without the lead vocal track. The band would then 'lip synch' while the singer sang live. This policy, aimed at creating business for the government employed engineers, also provided certain bands, Bauhaus premier among them, free studio time to fuck around if they nailed the 'TV' track quickly.
 
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