Overlooked Classics: Bauhaus- In The Flat Field

We need to talk about Bauhaus. No, not the German art movement, although it’s hugely influential and important.

The debut album from the English band is also the very first album ever released on 4AD.

I feel Bauhaus are often unfairly dismissed as pretentious pretty boys and mere Goths, like a haircut that you grow out as you finally mature (whatever that means). It seems they’re relagated to the dustbin of history, alongside the Rubik’s cube, Thatcherism, mullets and some pages from Ceefax- a blight on Britain, something to be ashamed of. Indeed, upon its release in 1980, the album was critically mauled, described as pompous and mannered.

But this seems both unfair and inaccurate. While Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Cure and Joy Division are rightly venerated for making music that both captured and transcended an era, Bauhaus are usually dismissed as poseurs.

Harsh, methinks. As an old Goth, I want to re-evaluate them. This debut stings like nettles.

There’s Pete Murphy and that voice, a low growl, purr or shriek, almost aristocratically curling around Daniel Ash and his scything guitar, depending on his mood state… Often in the same song. He was an amazing frontman, a sexy, spindly feral presence in black with steel eyes and vampiric cheekbones. Ash was equally feral and dandy, and the Haskins brothers, David J and Kevin Haskins, also exuding cool, provided snaking rhythm, and low ominous bass in tracks like Dark Entries and The Spy In The Cab. Meanwhile in St Vitus Dance there’s a thunderous tribalism that’s equal to supposedly tougher bands like Killing Joke.

They blurred genres like glam, punk rock and dub, and possessed a satirical sense of humour. Who else could take T Rex and turn their strut Telegram Sam into a thrust?

On this album, a piercing bruising concrete slab of a thing, like a brutalist piece of architecture waiting to be shaped into something beautiful, their sound is starting to emerge.

Steve Albini and John Robb have subsequently spoken of its importance as the blueprint of Goth rock, unashamed to be dark, glamorous and bookish at a time when alternative culture was perceived as yobbish, unwashed and obnoxious for the sake of it. Bauhaus always offered more, and that is why they matter.

Published by loreleiirvine

I'm a freelance arts monkey. Come see my brain vomit.

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