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Friday, January 10, 2014

Bauhaus: Gotham

BAUHAUS: GOTHAM (1999)

1) Double Dare; 2) In The Flat Field; 3) God In An Alcove; 4) In Fear Of Fear; 5) Hollow Hills; 6) Kick In The Eye; 7) Terror Couple Kill Colonel; 8) Silent Hedges; 9) Severance; 10) Boys; 11) She's In Parties; 12) The Passion Of Lovers; 13) Dark Entries; 14) Telegram Sam; 15) Ziggy Stardust; 16) Bela Lugosi's Dead; 17) All We Ever Wanted Was Everything; 18) Spirit; 19) Severance [studio version].

In 1998, Bauhaus took the world of mascara by surprise — it may have seemed to everyone that Murphy's ways were no longer compatible with the rest of the band (who were doing fine for themselves, under the name of «Love And Rockets»), but time either heals your wounds or emp­ties your pockets, or both, and, anyway, somehow in 1998 the original Bauhaus did come to­gether — and in quite an imposing manner, too. The «punny» album title may seem to indicate that they have finally agreed to settle into the appropriate pigeon hole, but on this particular occa­sion, since the concerts were indeed played in NYC (September 9-10, 1998, at the Hammerstein Ballroom), the title is really perfect for the occasion.

Moreover, the first few minutes of Gotham are suspenseful and breathtaking. Small nuclear blasts of bass rumble set against excited audience screams, gradually increasing in intensity until Ash properly opens up the feedback barrel and sets people flying from their seats — then David J distorts the bass riff of ʽDouble Dareʼ to living-hell status, and finally, Murphy crawls out of the shadows to sing a seriously amended set of lyrics... which is where the fun starts getting colder, since his stage antics had dwindled over two decades, and the scenic delivery is professional, technically perfect, and spirited, but not as bold or exuberant as it used to be.

From there on, it is hit after hit, classic after classic, expertly delivered, meticulously captured, thrilling for the audience of the Hammerstein, and, as it happens with all of Bauhaus' live recor­dings, not particularly rewarding for the casual fan. The tracklist predictably venerates the first record, respects the second, acknowledges the third, and ignores the fourth (with the equally pre­dictable exception of ʽShe's In Partiesʼ) — one surprising omission is ʽStigmata Martyrʼ, a song that always used to be the major highlight of the show, but was inexplicably not performed or omitted from the final recording; and one surprising inclusion is ʽSpiritʼ, heavily rearranged and done largely as a group harmony chant, with Ash's phased acoustic guitar as the only instrument and the entire "we love our audience" part completely melodically re-written so that it now sounds much less ironic than it used to.

The «dark horse» of the album is a cover of ʽSeveranceʼ, a Dead Can Dance cover from 1988's The Serpent's Egg — true to the spirit of Dead Can Dance, Bauhaus, too, do this thing as an at­mospheric mood piece, but neither the live version nor the studio recording, tacked on to the end as a bonus track, manage to be as intoxicating as the band they set out to cover. It is quite natural for Bauhaus to regard Brendan Perry and Lisa Gerrard as their «stepchildren», what with their first album coming out next year after Bauhaus' demise, as if they inherited that spirit, but in rea­lity the two bands are extremely different, and their material does not crossbreed that easily. Still, a curious intersection here, and if it helps fans of one band to get interested in the other, we will respect the gesture for its promotional value at least.

Other than that, Gotham simply shows that the band had never lost it, or if it did, it found it as soon as it stated a desire to do so. As a bona fide live overview of the band's entire career, recor­ded with excellent quality and featuring the band in top form, it works very well; as a candidate for «Bauhaus' best live album», it does not hold a candle to Press The Eject, mainly be­cause of the absence of ʽStigmata Martyrʼ and because Peter Murphy is not so young and not so crazy any more; as an important historic document witnessing the «restoration of a legend», it has its unde­niable value, and even a certain amount of thrill. And it never hurts to own yet another version of ʽBela Lugosi's Deadʼ — the bats always seem to scurry and shuffle around the ceiling in a musi­cal configuration that is quite different from last time. If anything, it helps not to play those old Bauhaus numbers for so long — gives you an incentive for reinventing some of them a little bit in the meantime.

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