Gothic rock (also referred to as 'goth rock' or simply 'goth') is a musical sub-genre of post-punk and alternative rock that formed during the late 1970s. Gothic rock bands grew from the strong ties they had to the English punk rock and emerging post-punk scenes. Pioneering bands are widely considered to be: Joy Division, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Bauhaus, and The Cure.
The genre itself was defined as a separate movement from punk rock during the early 1980s largely due to the significant stylistic divergences of the movement; Gothic rock, as opposed to punk, combines dark, often keyboard-heavy music with introspective, dark and mostly romantic lyrics. Gothic rock then gave rise to a broader subculture that included clubs, fashion and numerous publications that grew in popularity in the 1980s.
According to music journalist Simon Reynolds, standard musical fixtures of Gothic rock include "scything guitar patterns, high-pitched Joy Division bass lines that often usurped the melodic role, and beats that were either hypnotically dirgelike or "tribal" [African polyrhythmic]". Reynolds described the vocal style as consisting of "deep, droning alloys of Jim Morrison and Leonard Cohen". Siouxsie and the Banshees tended to play the flanging guitar effect, producing a brittle, cold and harsh sound that contrasted with their psychedelic rock predecessors. Several acts used drum machines downplaying the rhythm's back-beat.
Gothic rock typically deals with dark themes addressed through lyrics and the music's atmosphere. The poetic sensibilities of the genre led Gothic rock lyrics to exhibit literary romanticism, morbidity, religious symbolism, or supernatural mysticism. Musicians who initially shaped the aesthetics and musical conventions of Gothic rock include Marc Bolan, The Velvet Underground, The Doors, David Bowie, Iggy Pop and the Sex Pistols. Journalist Kurt Loder would write that the song "All Tomorrow's Parties" of the Velvet Underground is a "mesmerizing Gothic rock masterpiece".
However, Reynolds considers Alice Cooper as "the true ungodly godfather of goth" due to his "theatrics and black humor". Nico's 1969 album, The Marble Index, was also particularly influential. Gothic rock creates a dark atmosphere by drawing influence from the drones used by proto-punk group The Velvet Underground, and many goth singers are influenced by the "deep and dramatic" vocal timbre of David Bowie, albeit singing at even lower pitches. J.G. Ballard was a strong lyrical influence for many of the early Gothic rock groups; The Birthday Party drew on Arthur Rimbaud and Charles Baudelaire.
In 1976, Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice was published. The main character, although dark, wanted companionship and love. The book, according to music journalist Dave Thompson, slowly created an audience for Gothic rock by word of mouth. The same year saw the punk rock band The Damned debut. The group's vocalist Dave Vanian was a former gravedigger who dressed like a vampire 24/7. Brian James, a guitarist for the group, noted, "Other groups had safety pins and the spitting and bondage trousers, but you went to a Damned show, and half the local cemetery would be propped up against the stage".
In terms of fashion, Gothic bands incorporated influences from 19th-century Gothic literature along with horror films and, to a lesser extent, the BDSM culture. Gothic fashions within the subculture range from death rock/metal, punk, androgynous, Victorian, some Renaissance and Medieval style attire, or combinations of the above, most often with black clothing, makeup and hair. Gothic singers used to crimp their hair in the 1980s.
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