Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Branching Out: Punk's Assorted Sub-Genres: 4


ORIGINS:USA, West Coast, Late '70s
MEANING: Goth punk, sometimes called deathpunk, has its roots in early rock and roll from the 1950s and '60s, where some horror-themed acts romanticized death and monsters for novelty. Other influences were '70s camp acts like as Alice Cooper and KISS, whose quasi-evil personas were all part of the fun.

Horror movies (from the terrible ones to the best) were another direct influence, where bands drew from the spooky, epic and daunting power and themes the films possessed. Other influences were voodooism, Christianity, and surrealism. When it emerged in the late '70s as a legitimate punk offshoot, those who favored the dark and evil side of punk rock found a niche in Los Angeles, where the majority of the scene grew, and in New York where a smaller portion developed.

Goth punk has a very distinctive sound when compared to its other sube-genre brethren. Guitar chords were simple but echoey, with an emphasis on the bass and repetitive drumming. A spooky atmosphere was created with scratchy guitars and/or sinister synth sounds.

While the instruments' main purpose was to create eerie atmosphere, the singers (usually with gnarly voices) were left to create lyrics of diverse subject matter: some are lonesome, creepy and sad, while others were upbeat and tongue-in-cheek about cannibalism, murder and alien invasion.

Varied. Some bands, like LA's The Flesh Eaters, were merely black-clad and deviant-looking; others, like
Christian Death, above, took on a gothic, burlesque look with pale made-up faces and elements of lingerie. New York's The Cramps took musical cues from the early '60s rockabilly genre, and their look combined elements of 1960s kitsch and the kinky styles of bondage culture, seen below.

Basically, these bands aimed to look creepy, offbeat and wicked.

STARS: My pick for the biggest star in the goth punk genre are the self-proclaimed "horror punks" known as the Misfits. Musically, their early songs were short bursts of fury led by lead singer Glenn Danzig and his trademark howl. Song material was lifted straight out of B-rated horror films and even the Kennedy assassination.

They are iconic for their Fiend skull logo
, the "demon lock" hairstyle, and their constantly changing line-up since Danzig left the band in 1983. As the band re-formed, the musical style changed from furious punk jams to more lyrical and melodic rock -- all while keeping death and horror as their hallmark ethos.

How evil are the Misfits? Hell, these guys were once arrested for allegedly robbing the grave of a voodoo mistress in New Orleans, only to skip their court date to perform in Florida. I love this band, needless to say, and I saw them recently (with only one surviving original member) and they are as hard, fast, and evil as ever.

I couldn't find a video of the band actually performing that wasn't piss-poor quality, so here's a fan video with their horrific track "Last Caress" off their debut album
Static Age, aka the ONLY ALBUM THAT MATTERS.

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