I love Halloween! It's my favourite time of year, partly because of the whole ambience of it all and partly because I'm a bit of a goth at heart. I got rid of a lot of the outward signs of this when I started to work in the NHS (purple hair and New Rock boots are generally frowned upon in clinic), but my headphones are usually blasting something dark and melancholy. This week, after my 1975 post, another fun blog post showcasing some of my favourite goth-y bands and their lyrics!
So technically I'm not old enough to remember the "proper" goth days of the 1980s, but there's been a lot of good music released since then. Let's start with a classic though.
Sisters of Mercy - Torch
"How can it help you when you don't know what you need?
How can anybody set you free?"
Torch is not one of my favourite Sisters of Mercy songs, but it's on the Floodland album - in my opinion, one of the definitive albums of the genre. The lyrics I've chosen hark back to my last blog post, and to something I find myself saying a lot: if you're asking for help, it's important to be clear about what you want. If you're not sure what you need, it's much harder for people to help. That doesn't hold true for therapy, where part of the task is probably to help you realise what it is that you need, but certainly in most parts of life it's much better to be clear in how you want things to be done. Andrew Eldritch knows that, you should too.
Siouxsie and the Banshees - Stargazer
(Content note for discussion of eating disorders on this one)
"But you've learnt that as you grow weaker
There's less hurt because there's much less to hurt"
Siouxsie Sioux is the ultimate goth icon. I spent too much time perfecting her sharp black eyeliner when I was a teenager, and my GCSE Design and Technology project was SATB themed (yes, I was *that* teenager!). I had to design a restaurant and it was called, predictably, Stargazer's.
I love this song, but my interpretation is quite dark. The lines above remind me of working with people with eating disorders, and how weight loss can be a protective barrier against a world that can feel hard and painful at times. Ultimately, this isn't a good thing - we need to find ways to cope that don't involve causing ourselves physical harm - but it's one interpretation of both this song and eating disorders as a whole.
The Cure - Boys Don't Cry
"I would do most anything to get you back by my side
But I just keep on laughing, hiding the tears in my eyes
'Cause boys don't cry"
Oh, Robert Smith. I'm pretty sure The Cure aren't keen on being classed as "gothic" (I don't think they like any kind of classification, which is unfortunate really as I'm including them in this line-up!). Boys Don't Cry is one of those songs that is incredible to dance to and acutely painful when you actually sit down and listen to the lyrics.
Relationships are tricky, and if you internalise even a small amount of the message we're given in society that "boys don't cry," they can be even trickier. In the song, the singer has taken this fully on board, to the extent that he's desperate to get his partner back but can't express how he feels because it might be mistaken for weakness. Because he's not supposed to get upset about this kind of thing, he's supposed to just "keep on laughing" and ignore the pain. That message is dangerous, and I think The Cure do a good job of showing how ridiculous it is. If you don't show your feelings, and keep pushing people away, it can only lead to heartbreak.
Lacuna Coil - Swamped
"It's just another day
the shame is gone
hard to believe
that I've let it go"
Lacuna Coil are an Italian goth band who have been going for a while but never seem to get the same recognition as some other bands. I happen to quite like them, and I like Swamped a lot.
Whilst a lot of gothic lyrics are around painful experiences, heartache and "the beauty of death," Swamped gives what I think is a simple, hopeful message. I think it's difficult for people to let go of feelings like shame, because they're painful and tricky. A shame-inducing experience you had at age eight can stay with you for decades. That's why it's nice to hear a song where the message is that you can "let it go," even if it's hard to believe that when it happens. You don't have to drag your shame around with you forever.
Jane Siberry - It Can't Rain All The Time
"It can't rain all the time.
The sky won't fall forever.
And though the night seems long,
Your tears won't fall forever."
Okay, this one might not technically count! This song is part of the soundtrack for The Crow, a film (and soundtrack) full of brooding, gothic imagery. But this song itself isn't really in the gothic vein. I like it though, and the message it conveys. At times it feels like everything is terrible and that it will stay that way. In spite of that, it's true that however long you cry for, you won't cry forever. There's hope - the sun will rise, things will get better, and things won't seem quite so terrible in the future.
Bauhaus - Small Talk Stinks
"String me a line that has meaning and depth...small talk stinks"
One of the first gothic rock bands, Bauhaus started off punk-y and became more melancholy as the years went on. I particularly like the lyric here, because it resonates with me personally. I'm not the kind of person who likes small talk, I find it difficult to connect with people at parties where they're not interested in a conversation about life, beliefs, or more interesting things. I wonder sometimes if it's a side-effect of my day job, but I can make small talk with clients so probably not - it's likely more to do with my introverted nature. Small talk is a useful skill to learn though, so if anyone has any tips let me know!
The Cruxshadows - Halo
"We won't sit down, we won't shut up
We won't go quietly away
We won't accept, we won't pretend
That we are less than fearless"
Finally, one of my absolute favourite bands - the Cruxshadows - with what I think is a rousing anthem for those who feel small and anxious. When life is hard, sometimes the best thing you can do is take a stand and say no, we're not going to stop standing up for the things that we believe in. I think this is relevant for everyone who's ever been told that they're too loud, that they're taking up space that isn't for them when they know it is, that they're too much - and aren't we all a little too much to handle, at times? It's not a deficit, it's a strength.
Let me know your favourite gothic songs in the comments, and have a spooky Halloween!
Dr Sarah Blackshaw: Clinical Psychologist, blogger, tea drinker, interested in dinosaurs and shiny objects