‘Goth needs to defend its territory’ – how the ‘postpunk’ tag is muddying the waters


Originally published on  by The Blogging Goth

Here’s an exercise for you. Say, ‘Bauhaus is goth music’. Of course it is. Because in the film ‘Night of the Demons’ Amelia Kincaid seduces some dumb bloke, and bites off his tongue to Stigmata Martyr. How can that not be goth?

Now say Siouxsie Sioux is goth – go on, it feels good doesn’t it? What does Juju have in common with Entertainment by Gang of Four or The Metal Box by Public Image Ltd, the archetypal model for all post punk bands? I’d argue – absolutely nothing! Siouxsie was not funk punk, she is goth. The romance, mysticism and drama of Siouxsie separate her music from the ordinary focus on common day concerns of Gang of Four or PiL. They have nothing in common apart from originating in the UK punk movement.

Now say Joy Division are goth. Go on, say it with your whole chest! Somehow it feels wrong, doesn’t it? But I’m here to tell you it shouldn’t. Because you’ve been lied to!

See, back in the 90s being a goth band was shit. Being accused of being a goth band was shit and every band who wanted to be taken seriously and be successful hated the goth label, and did their best to avoid it. Just read any interview with Andrew Eldritch and see how he despises the label and avoids it like the plague.

So in the 90s, when music journalists started to realise just how important Joy Division, Bauhaus and Siouxsie were, they concocted a fiction that none of these bands were actually goth and that they were ‘post punk’. Joy Division is a massively important band in explaining why some indie and rock bands sounded the way they do in the 2000s. No self respecting music journalist wanted to admit the bands they liked were influenced by something as stupid and tawdry as goth and so it all got neatly sanitised, packaged and labelled as post punk.

Stupidly, a lot of the goth community persist in repeating and amplifying this fiction. Joy Division has absolutely nothing in common with other archetypal post punk bands! Go on, listen to Closer then listen to, for example, something by The Membranes. They have nothing in common, in feeling or in vibes. Put simply, Joy Division is goth and not post punk.

Why does any of this matter, you might ask yourself, because who cares about labels? I’d argue it matters because if Goth is to have a future as a music subculture rather than a fashion label for how people dress, it needs to claim its own music back and start identifying its own influence on other subcultures.

Goth festivals won’t be able to book New Model Army and The Mission forever; the old 80s bands can’t play forever. To survive, goth needs to carve out its own musical identity and claim bands like Lebanon Hanover, Creeper or Twin Tribes with pride. But the state of goth for young people is a mess right now; from some older goths complaining about Creeper headlining Whitby to the popular accounts on Twitter, goth music videos and post punk online, labelling all the goth music they play ‘post punk’.

If you are a young person wanting to join the goth scene and understand what’s it about and how it sounds, you’re going to be pretty bewildered. Especially when no one can agree what goth music is and who gets to join the accepted list of bands.

But there’s is a better way, and to see how it could be we just need to look at another post-punk scene – jardcore. You may not have noticed but hardcore is massive now. It’s so massive, so popular, that there are multiple festivals all over the UK, in Newcastle (Phazed Out), Manchester (Outbreak) and more dedicated to just this genre. Knocked Loose just released their latest album ‘You won’t go before you’re supposed to’ and it’s already breaking records with critics and listeners both loving it. It even sounds a bit goth, with Bryan Garris’s ever anxious and perilous screams over blast after blast of negative hardcore.

But it wasn’t always this popular. Hardcore started in the early 80s with the main pioneers Minor Threat, Black Flag and Discharge amongst others. In the mid 80s Ian McKaye dissolved Minor Threat and said ‘hardcore had already become too stale, too repetitive and too focused on aggression’ and formed post-hardcore band Fugazi as a reaction.

The hardcore community could have just moved on – but they didn’t! The bands kept going, the community got stronger and hardcore didn’t die. Newer bands kept evolving the sound beyond all odds, until you get where we are today with hardcore dominating every related music genre before it. Pretty much all new metal bands are actually just a derivative of hardcore now. Bring Me The Horizon, Spiritbox, Sleep Token, all were inspired by hardcore more than metal! Loathe, Knocked Loose, half of Download’s main lineup, bands like Fall Out Boy, Avenged Sevenfold, Code Orange, Bad Imens, Wargasm, Holding Absence… all were inspired by hardcore or in other cases actual former hardcore bands.

And yet, goth won’t even claim Creeper – the biggest goth band in the Whitby line up – because they were formally an emo band and not started in the 80s. If you told any hardcore fan now they should accept their music was merely post punk, they would laugh in your face! Hardcore is everywhere and its fans would never accept being reduced into something as weak as post punk.

Hardcore achieved its current world domination through a community that never quit, was proud of hardcore and colonised other music to such an extent it is now ubiquitous and bigger than metal. Goth can do the same, but only when the community takes back its founders like Joy Division and Siouxsie, rejects the post punk label and enthusiastically embraces bands like Creeper to take forward the genre to new audiences.

Say it now – Joy Division is goth! Feels good now, doesn’t it?