The goth subculture is based on a particular strand of post-punk music known as ‘gothic rock’. Classic gothic rock bands include Bauhaus, Siouxsie and The Banshees, Sisters of Mercy, Specimen, X-Mal Deutschland, The Virgin Prunes and The March Violets. Many genres of music that are closely related to the gothic sub-culture may be considered either as sub-genres or ‘spin-offs’, such as Deathrock, Dark Wave, Cold Wave, NDW, Industrial, EBM. This combined with crossovers in the style choices made by other subcultures such as metal and emo (dark clothing, heavy black eyeliner) have made the distinctions between what is goth and what is not confusing to many. That the term ‘goth’ is regularly misused is hardly surprising; if someone isn’t interested in a subculture, what obligation do they have to burden themselves with its definitions and pedantries?
Aesthetically, Goths drew from the theatricality and outrageousness of punk and glam fashion while altering it to something new, distinctive and… black. The goth look has in the past year or two experienced something of a make-over (or a burglary, depending on your point of view). It’s hardly the first time mainstream fashion has looked to goth for inspiration; the gothic subculture seems to be a perennial inspiration for designers such as Alexander McQueen and Vivienne Westwood. What’s different about the recent revival of mainstream interest in the goth subculture is that it’s very much intertwined with social media. Tumblrs like GucciGoth and FuckYeahGoths deal with gothdom in a fashionable but inauthentic way. Ultimately their aesthetic looks less like the goths you may remember (or have been) in school and more like a Brown Thomas employee. Though some of the content of these blogs will be authentic artefacts from the gothic subculture, much of it will present a less complicated and more ‘chic’ interpretation of it.
FuckYeahGoths has posted ‘goth’ music compilations, containing a mixture of goth music and non-goth favourites of the blog’s creator. Ipso Facto (who confusingly share a band name with a genuine 80’s goth band) and The Dum Dum Girls are two featured band composed of girls dressed exclusively in black, who do not play goth music. Including them on the blog enforces the misrepresentation of what goth is (there being more to it than the colour black), and furthers the confusion. I like to think that this affirms my belief that tumblr is at best a locator of ‘cool stuff’ and at worst a place where cultural signifiers float around out of context and are passed on in obliviousness. [tortured sigh]
But there’s good news! Goth music is definitely music that should be danced to, so if you want to do so publicly you’ll be glad to hear that you can enjoy the wonderful music we owe to this subculture on Dublin dance floors. Check out Dominion (mentioned below) or Carousel in The Thomas House for great mix of goth and Dark Wave music that will have you dancing with po-faced appreciation.
Having now made my gothic début, I can confirm that the scene here is welcoming to those of all levels of knowledge and commitment. I had certain expectations already formed by reports of other goth scenes around the world, and was relieved by the welcoming and relaxed atmosphere in Dominion. You need not fear being shown the door for not knowing who Peter Murphy is.
Nowthisisgothic provides a more authentic alternative to fuckyeahgoths.tumblr.com, focussing on the 80’s. What I like best about this blog is that it doesn’t merely post the famous faces of gothdom, but unknown, fabulous Goths of the past. Expect lots of big hair and works of tragically transient (and now long-gone) eyeliner-art.
On De Youtube
For those of you whose first sighting of a ‘goth’ may have been on daytime TV, or those of you who simply enjoy trash, here is a clip of a ‘goth’ Marilyn Manson fan getting a scolding from his Da (“Mr. 70’s over there”) and a pat on the back from Ricki Lake.
Words: Caoimhe Lavelle
Illustration: Fuchsia Macaree