“Some Girls Wander By Mistake” – New 4LP Vinyl Boxset Release

You can now pre-order a four-record boxset of vinyl from Rhino Records, titled Some Girls Wander By Mistake, that will cover the earliest singles and EPs of The Sisters of Mercy, from 1980 to 1983.
Available from 1st September, for the princely sum of £35.92, it is titled the same as the 1992 compilation album released by the band and includes much of the same music. However, also included is the 1992 version of Temple of Love with Ofra Haza and the Canadian Club Remix of Vision Thing – released as a club single in ’91.

There is also a re-release of Under The Gun, the very last single from The Sisters Of Mercy, released in 1993. It includes both the Jutland and Metropolis Mix, plus the 1993 remix of the floor-filling classic Alice. So, in a way this box-set will bookend the career of The Sisters of Mercy, containing their first and last officially released singles – at least until the ‘newer’ songs see some kind of publication… if ever.

The Sisters of Mercy, Nov 2016

Rhino have form with this – they released another four-vinyl boxset in 2016 covering the last studio album, Vision Thing, which included the album, the singles, and a few bootlegs and remixes as well. So, is this a chance to experience a classic recording amalgamated with choice extras, in a remastered design, with an upgraded sound?
I reached out to audiophile, Sisters scholar and singer of Terminal Gods Robert Cowlin for his professional take on this release and whether it was a completist’s goal, a purist’s dream or a blatant extortion effort.

The Blogging Goth: Hi Rob, thanks for taking the time to talk to us. So, first off, you’re a Sisters fan of impeccable auditory savvy. Will this reissue see an improvement on the quality do you think?
Rob Cowlin: Hopefully this reissue will see an improvement in sound quality if the label follows the same route as they have for the previous three LP/digital box sets. The difficulty with these early singles is that the masters are scattered and the original release of SGWBM used (not very good) needledrops as the sources.
The three 12 inches were originally cut at MPO (a French vinyl processing plant that handled the original releases), which is still in operation. I hope Rhino has been able to salvage the original vinyl cutting masters from MPO and used them for this release (if they still exist). The Damage Done and Body Electric are trickier, both were mastered at small London studios, who knows what has happened to their production parts.

The Body Electric master turned up on the CNT compilation, “They Shall Not Pass”, and sounds a lot better than the mess on the original SGWBM compilation. If they have to use needledrops that is okay, but hopefully they will make better transfers than the ones used in ’92. If they’re able to use original tape sources (either masters or vinyl cutting tapes) then this release should beat the original compilation for sound quality, and could potentially sound better than the original singles depending on how good the mastering is.
Thankfully, the other three titles in this series have been mastered to a good standard with healthy dynamic range and appropriate EQ. If the early singles receive a similar treatment then these could be the best they’ve ever sounded.

The inclusion of Temple of Love ’92 and Under the Gun is a head-scratcher. From a sound quality perspective, the original CD singles are excellent and I can’t see them being improved upon.

TBG: I was curious about including the later singles – are they just filling space do you think, enough to bulk out another four-record collection?
RC: Purely filler in my opinion. They should have just reissued SGWBM and Overbombing as standalone releases.
TBG: Do you think Rhino will release a box-set for A Slight Case of Overbombing as well?
RC: They’ve nothing left to pad a box out with. Hopefully they will reissue it on its own as originals are hard to come by!

TBG: So this is more for audiophiles and completists then?
RC: Not at all. Any fan of the band (particularly the obsessives who know the songs well) will be able to hear the difference in sound quality between the reissue, original compilation, and original singles – for better or worse.
I’ve shared some of my needledrops of the original singles and fans have been surprised at the difference in sound quality achievable simply by sourcing mint condition originals and using competent equipment. If Rhino use good tape sources then there should be an easily quantifiable uptick in sound quality.

With the original singles getting harder to find in mint condition, I should think this reissue will appeal to quite a few fans and of course modern vinyl enthusiasts. For what it’s worth, I don’t understand the fans on message boards or Facebook who go “I’ve got the original 12″, 7″, promo, test pressing, cassette, bootleg – why would I buy *this*?!” Hypocritical much?

TBG: What do you think the band’s strategy is for this re-release, if indeed they’ve been involved at all?
: I doubt the band has been involved, though the box set’s release is due to coincide with their Roundhouse residency!
TBG: Yeah, Rhino scheduled this well. Thanks very much for your time, Rob!


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Infesting 2017: The Blogging Goth Goes To Bradford

Tim Sinister, 2017

“There goes Tim Sinister”, you’ll say. “Stereotype Trad Goth,” you’ll say. “Wishes he was Eldritch but, you know, still with hair. ” You’ll be right too, and it’s only a matter of time I ink myself with the head and star and wish I was back in the Eighties.

I harbour a dark, dark secret though. Long before the appeal of aviators and cowboy hats, before I had an inkling of the dark side, I was into another robotic beat – the type Germany exported so successfully in the late Eighties and early Nineties. So it was no surprise I should find a welcoming home in the cyber-goth end of the market, and got into a fair amount of EBM and electro stuff.

Tim Sinister, 2010

Like so many before me, I made a pilgrimage to Leeds – Goth City – so the world-famous Infest was right on my doorstep. Running since 1998, it was originally suggested as a bit of DIY local promotion for West Yorkshire’s still burgeoning Goth scene. When they booked Apoptygma Berzerk in ’99, the transition to full-on bleep was pretty much complete. Now it’s a three-night extravaganza, jammed full of world-class heavyweight bands, crazed DJs determined to shatter bones with heavy beats, and a market boasting all kinds of shiny clobber destined to make your bank balance sob.

I made it to the tenth anniversary and came back a few more years, always loving it – the music but also the social angle. Anyone can tell you Goths are gregarious creatures and nothing brings us together like booze and a boogie. Eventually though time, costs and a relocation further North made it harder to get down and get down.

Until the stars finally aligned. My blog began gathering speed and followers, and I started posting regular – if incoherent – live reviews from Whitby Goth Weekend. I made friends with Chris M, one of the original Infest founders. Other friends were driving down from Newcastle, and the accommodation – if you catch it in time – is laughably affordable.

So I’ll be racing down on Friday 25th August to gather my first ever Press Pass for Infest, and you’ll be able to follow me through my myriad social media channels as I browse the stalls, drink the booze, watch the bands, drink the booze, listen to the DJs, booze the drink and generally get into mischief whilst attempting to scrape together a review that somehow encapsulates the FIFTEEN PLUS bands that are the beating heart of Infest 2017. Beating pretty fast as well I don’t doubt. I’m especially holding out for heavy-hitting headliners like Die Krupps and Rotersand.

Tickets are still available – just – so get yourself a place at the festival of the future. See you there!

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Red Is The New Black: Goth Election 2017

Goth Election 2017

The United Kingdom, and the world, wake up to an unexpected future after the General Election returns a hung parliament with no party holding enough seats to form a government.

The polls also closed in Goth Election 2017 with an oddly less-than-round figure of 199 votes cast. Our results somewhat reflect the new British political system, but there also massive departures. For one, turn-out at Goth Election 2017 is down considerably, whereas the UK turn-out rose by 2%, largely on the backs of the under-represented 18-24 age group.

Goth Election 2017: The Results

Results from Goth Election 2017

The main parties vote share has shifted considerably. Most noticeably the Goths have deserted the Green Party for Labour, again reflecting the national trend which saw the third-party Greens – who took over a million votes in 2015 – fall to less than 600,000 votes nationwide.

Labour have more than doubled their vote amongst left-leaning Goths, and would have an easily comfortable majority in the (Haunted) House of Commons in 2017. Against them, The Tories lost ground, coming fifth in a ranking of all parties – but still performing better than the 2015 Goth Election, when more people would rather spoil their ballot than vote for David Cameron!

Goth Election 2015

Results from Goth Election 2015

Also on the right, UKIP were as devastated in the Goth Election as they were in the UK vote, plunging three percent in the share to near-obscurity. They were only saved from complete dissolution by Plaid Cymru, Sinn Fein and the Democratic Unionist Party all of whom polled no votes at all. Interestingly, the DUP seem poised to be the Tories salvation in Westminster, signalling a willingness to vote in support of a minority government around Theresa May… or her successor!

North of the border, SNP performance was mirrored in the Goth Election where they slipped from third to fourth ranking, behind a surprise resurgent Lib Dem vote from the Goths. Again, this is reflected in Parliament where the traditional third-party choice (and reluctant coalition partners with Cameron’s Tories previously) has had at best a mixed-bag of results, including the loss of former party leader Nick Clegg’s Sheffield Hallam seat but unexpected gains elsewhere.

People's Republic of West Yorkshire

Once again, our brief survey points towards a broadly left-leaning political stance in the Goth subculture, with traditional right-wing holdouts still stubbornly voting albeit in reduced numbers.
The United Grimdom would return a Gothernment with a very strong mandate for Jeremy Morbid and his Labour (After Midnight) Party, and that concludes both our election coverage and dreadful puns for 2017.

Or does it…? 

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Goth Election 2017

Goth General Election 2017

We’re just days away from the United Kingdom General Election on 8th June, which reminded me of our last foray into political waters with a poll we ran before the 2015 election. Along with all the official polling companies, we were dead wrong – but it was nice to dream of a green-and-black government in Goth Britain!

General Election 2017, Goth Vote

Another poll has been set up for recording Goth voting intentions for this election. We’ll close the polls on Thursday and publish them Friday, along with discussion about comparisons to the national results, as well as 2015’s Goth Voting Trends.

Last time, we attempted to cross the political spectrum by talking to alternative voters who were going for alternative parties – Mark for UKIP and Robert for the Green Party – both operating out beyond the traditional Labour-Tory divide.

Will the 18-24 surge for Corbyn’s Labour close the gap, or will May’s “strong and stable” policy win her enough of a majority to govern? Could enough fringe parties band together in alliance to rewrite British Politics?

Please register your vote, share with friends, and discuss your thoughts in the comments!

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“A Place Both Wonderful And Strange” – Geography through a Goth lens

American Gods by StarzThe TV adaption of Neil Gaiman’s acclaimed fantasy novel American Gods has been unreal and amazing so far. It would be so easy to mangle this complex combination of subtle themes and sly allusions, but Starz seem to have come through it perfectly. I look forward to more episodes with great anticipation.

In a recent interview, Gaiman explains how much of the novel was rooted in his perception of the ‘weirdness’ of Wisconsin, the Midwest American state where he wrote it. You can see it echoed in the strange locations that litter American Gods, the ‘new temples’ raised by post-theological Americans to areas of power not bound up in monolithic, classical Christianity. There are chapels of the curious, synagogues of strange.
Much of American Gods is a road-trip across weird America, and to me channels the Gothic trope of the eerie and unusual, amidst the ordered ordinariness of the contemporary United States.

It is a common trait underpinning much of the pop-culture end of Gothic, such as the Goth subculture and its attendant creative strands of literature, film and music. It is in the music of antipodean anarchist Nick Cave that I also hear America, but for me it is the sweltering, stinking, swamps and stinging, searing sands of the Bible Belt and beyond, a soundtrack of Southern Gothic.

Dig Lazarus Dig!!!Cave ranges far and wide across the North American continent though, much like Shadow, the protagonist in American Gods. In the Bad Seeds song “Albert Goes West” from the 2008 album Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!! characters – or maybe aspects of the narrator himself, it is open to interpretation – head South, West, North and East and meet various fates, implied and deadly.

Cave himself however “ain’t going anywhere – just sit and watch the sun come up – I like it here!” He remains in some theoretical ‘centre of America’, safe and isolated from the dangers that beset others.
Equally, the characters of American Gods will convene for their final struggle in the semi-mystical ‘middle of America’ – not Middle America, which is another concept entirely! – and it all hearkens back to half-recalled pagan mysticism, the meeting of ley lines and the nexus of power. Once again we have accessed the old tropes of Gothic, permeating and linking all these creative outputs.

Twin Peaks by ShowtimeOne place Cave failed to visit was the far North-West, those primeval forest-wrapped mountains that are only the foothills of the forbidding British Columbia ranges. Up there, the collision between quirky Americana and deadly phenomena has been delightfully, if cryptically, described by David Lynch’s cult classic TV series, Twin Peaks.

Once again, the Gothic traits are showing in this world-between-worlds as deadly otherworldly killers lurk behind the faces of trustworthy friends and family, and an unnameable something stalks the gorgeous woods of Washington state. That Twin Peaks has returned to TV screens as well speaks volumes for our appreciation of the trope.

That perception, the ‘haunting’ of American geography, is then exported to spiritual successor The X-Files, where government procedure takes on cryptids, extraterrestrials and urban legends in a sprawling jaunt around the US – and beyond – to prove ‘there are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.’ Agents Mulder and Scully strive to push back the borders of ignorance, to force the paranormal into just the ‘normal’, revealing only greater mysteries and more deadly threats – a journey so fascinating, The X-Files has also been resurrected from its grave of Nineties counter-culture. Their journey is even sound-tracked by none other than Nick Cave, in the second season’s sixth episode “Ascension”, alluding in his all-knowing ways to the catastrophic plans of the sinister forces of conspiracy.

Those forces of conspiracy became a lynchpin for public imagination in the Nineties, to such an extent that the passionate belief in the ‘Men In Black’ is directly tapped as a solid threat for our protagonist in… American Gods. All mysteries merge I suppose, all have their roots in Gothic horror, and all have painted a uniform shade of deepest, inscrutable black beneath those brazen red, white and blue stars and stripes.

People's Republic of West YorkshireNot that we can limit ourselves to America, in fact. I gave a presentation to the Gothic Manchester conference focusing on the relationship between places – in this instance, Northern England – and the Gothic. I observed the ‘dark satanic mills’ that Blake described could well have referred to the smoke-blackened industrial wasteland of the North, that would later originate some of our most definitive artists within the Goth subculture.

Andrew Eldritch is the lead singer of The Sisters of Mercy, arguably one of the most definitive Goth bands ever. He remains inextricably linked to the ‘People’s Republic of West Yorkshire’, a comical description he felt impelled to suggest based on his anarcho-syndicalist political leanings and the far-left political aspirations of that industrialised, marginalized North.
He even referred to subcultural outposts like Le Phonographique (contender for first ‘Goth’ club in the world with the more-famous Batcave of Camden) in his song “Floorshow”. Here the locations are migrating into popular culture, becoming less of a real-world place and more a conceptual idea.

By the time the album Floodland arrived, its focus on water, death and sex are demonstrative of Eldritch’s relocation to Hamburg in Northern Germany. A port town (water), a potential first-strike target for a belligerent Soviet Union during the Cold War (death) and his openly-admitted headquarters on the Reeperbahn, Hamburg’s Red Light district (sex) are all Eldritch once again gleefully ringing those ‘Goth’ tropes, all the while pushing the irony barrier with his increasingly ardent denials of his G-word heritage.

Eldritch’s fleeing from that potential Andrew Eldritch in the video for "Doctor Jeep", 1990black albatross about his neck led him to Vision Thing, the ‘last’ album by The Sisters of Mercy. He threw himself and his band into a cruel, cool deconstruction of Nineties rock and metal, effortlessly vanquishing with virtuoso verbal style the politics, culture and phenomena that was… America.

He created another fantastical, hardly-believable but so-true-it-hurts version of Bush Senior’s United States with songs like “Doctor Jeep” in 1990, recognizing as Gaiman would in 2001 the ‘new’ Gods of greed and war and media. The artificial horrors amidst natural, normal life, those echoing Gothic tropes at work again.

I regret that I can say little outside of the Western bubble. However, I was delighted to read in History Today a refreshingly down to Earth account entitled Romania’s Problem with Dracula. Here, the Gothic trope found it surprisingly difficult to take root, in the country that was nominally the birthplace of the most famous vampire to ever live, a walking trope and father of tropes. The reality was of course that there was precious little ‘real’ geography to attach to Stoker’s famous Count, and even if the canny businessmen in Romania’s tourism industry were inclined, they were still in the grip of the ‘scientific communism’ of the USSR, at that time the dominant authority.

By SîmbotinOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0 ro, Link

Of course, creativity is the handmaiden of all I have discussed here. The entrepreneurs of Romania were able to outmaneuver Moscow’s creaking centralised bureaucracy and actually appropriate existing locations (the tenuously connected Bran Castle) or build entirely new geography (Hotel Tihuta, later Hotel Castel Dracula) to which could be attached Gothic tropes – and hordes of money-spending tourists.
It is a delightfully apt reversal of our observations so far. Where American Gods, Nick Cave, Twin Peaks, Andrew Eldritch and The X Files all found the clichés of Gothic culture to attach to the geography, in Romania the location was created to house the trope.

There are two worlds being discussed here, and we find ourselves very much in between, whilst our creators and dreamers weave impossible connections to bridge the divide, that nevertheless seem just real enough to thrill.

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