[58] Bauhaus – In The Flat Field

16 May

I used to hear “Bela Legosi’s Dead” at least 3 times a week, every week, during my years at the University of Sussex.  It was a track that the DJs in the Rock clubs of Brighton would play regularly, likely because at over nine and a half minutes it allowed them time to use the bathroom . . .

In The Flat Field

In The Flat Field











That was the extent of my relationship with Bauhaus coming to listen to this album – a sea of teens and twenty somethings, all in black, pacing and swaying to the clanging bells and booming electric bass, an opportunity to catch my breath after the frantic dancing to the hair rock I loved (and still love) so much.

Even then I kind of liked it.

But I am unprepared to hear a track like”Dive” with its cool and spiky guitar riffing, high energy tempo and hard rocking attitude.  There is still alienation on display in the extraneous squeaks and electronic squeals, but instead of the moping I associate with Goth, this sounds more like the honest to goodness anger of Punk.

While still far from the feelgood excess of my favored genre, it has more in common here with the Punk bands that preceded it or the Glam sound that followed than the Goth bands that I at times embraced like The Sisters of Mercy or even The Cure.

There is far more to explore here than I might have guessed from the muddy chimes of “Bela . . .”

The harsh, affected vocals of Peter Murphy are instantly recognizable – atonal and jerky but utterly assured – backed by a wall of sound approach which is somehow timeless despite the artificial nature of each of the individual instrument tones.

There is the subversive humor of tracks like “Stigmata Martyr” or “Small Talk Stinks” (which could almost be an early REM track), the “found art” snippets of dialog almost beyond hearing on a number of songs.

And there is the pleasant surprise of a straight ahead cover – T. Rex’s standard, “Telegram Sam” which fits remarkably well among the almost industrial crunchiness of the original tracks.

Some of the guitar sounds are so full of feedback and distortion that they no longer sound like guitars, almost random electronica, reminiscent of a Hip Hop DJ scratching a record, but the rhythm remains tight and the songs retain a focus, driving towards a goal, rarely wallowing too long in the expected self indulgence.

Once again Tom Moon has highlighted a recording which, while critically acclaimed, was not a mainstream hit yet clearly influenced much of the sound to follow without ever being exactly copied.

It might not be a stretch to argue that 80s and 90s Rock sounds altogether different without the underground influence of Bauhaus and their expansive and experimental debut.

Next Week: Beach Boys – Good Vibrations

Owned before blogging? No. (2 of 58 = 3%)
Heard before blogging? No. (4 of 58 = 7%)
Recommend? Yes. (46 of 58 = 79%)

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