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Rising from the ashes of Punk, Goth Rock fused post‐punk alternative experimentation with dark theatricality, with songs emphasizing atmosphere and mood, replete with lyrics of the doomed romantic variety.
Bands like The Cure, Siouxsie and The Banshees, Joy Division and Bauhaus helped popularize the movement, but there are many smaller, eccentric acts that played a pivotal role, even if they’ve been lost in the greater pop culture discussion.
With this in mind, let’s look at some other 80s good Goth bands that those looking to immerse themselves in the subculture should seek out.
Essential albums: ‘The Southern Death Cult’ (1983)
Essential Tracks: ‘Moya’ (1983), ‘Fatman’ (1983), ‘False Faces’ (1983)
‘Crow’ (1983), ‘Faith’ (1983)
Southern Death Cult were one of the most unique Goth acts with a politically conscious stance absent from the genre as a whole.
Vocalist Ian Astbury was a magnetic frontman wearing eye‐catching attire and belting lyrics that reflected the plight of Native American culture.
His distinctive baritone cut through the group’s ethereal song craft, leading to an avalanche of hype.
So it was shocking that he left the group at their peak, resulting in their breakup. But his musical vision rose to greater success after forming The Cult, a band that fused Goth with arena rock swagger.
Essential Tracks: ‘Pagan Love Song’ (1982), ‘Baby Turns Blue’ (1982), ‘Love Lasts Forever’ (1986), ‘Twenty Tens’ (1980), ‘Moments and Mine’(1981)
Essential Albums: ‘A New Form of Beauty Parts‐1‐4’ (1981), ‘Heresie’ (1982), ‘…If I Die, I Die’ (1982), ‘The Moon Looked Down and Laughed’(1986)
Emerging from the same Irish music scene as U2 (Prunes guitarist Dik Evans is the brother of U2’s The Edge), this obscure collective thumbed their nose at polite society with their provocative dress and blasphemous lyrical content.
Best known for their Goth anthem, ‘Pagan Love Song,’ they never achieved mainstream success (although vocalist Gavin Friday had a relatively successful solo career).
Their stark, taut style includes some deeply catchy tunes amidst dramatic dissonance and vocal histrionics.
Essential Tracks: ‘Kiss Kiss Bang Bang’ (1983), ‘”Returning (From A Journey)’ (1983), ‘The Beauty of Poison’ (1983), ‘Sharp Teeth’ (1985), ‘Indestructible’ (1986), ‘Wolverines’ (1983), ‘Hex’ (1985), ‘Tell Tall’ (1983), ‘Brainburst’ (1986)
Essential Albums: ‘Electric Ballroom’ (2007), ‘Wake The Dead’ (2013), ‘Batastrophe’ (1983)
Making Goth angst danceable, Specimen crafted nihilistic compositions with a dose of 70s glam and disco beats thrown in for good measure.
The group’s fashion sense was also groundbreaking, setting the standard for the iconic Goth “look.”
Dancefloor ready tunes like ‘Kiss Kiss Bang Bang’ and ‘The Beauty of Poison’ are some of the most immediately accessible songs in Goth, and still hold up today.
Essential Albums: ‘Sun Family’ (1985), ‘The Greatest Story Ever Told’ (1987), ‘Live Free or Die’ (1988), ‘Days of Madness’ (1989)
Essential Tracks: ‘Love Me’ (1985), ‘Live Free or Die’ (1988),‘I Love The Things You Do To Me’ (1988), ‘I’ll Show You Something Special’ (1988), ‘Would I Die For You’ (1988), ‘Running Out of Time’ (1988), ‘New Kind of Love’ (1987), ‘I Took A Little’ (1989), ‘A Little Bit of Love’ (1990)
This Scottish trio (featuring brothers Mark, Jim and Des Morris), combined Goth atmosphere with muscular hard rock crunch, best represented on anthemic tracks like ‘I Love The Things You Do To Me’ and ‘Would I Die For You’ from their 1988 album, ‘Live Free or Die.’
But, despite their propulsive single, ‘I’ll Show You Something Special’, being featured on the ‘Planes, Trains and Automobiles’ soundtrack, mainstream success was elusive.
This makes them an ideal hidden treasure for fans of acts like The Cult and Guns N’ Roses.
Essential Albums: ‘Blue Sunshine’ (1983)
Essential Tracks: ‘Punish Me With Kisses’ (1983), ‘Like An Animal’ (1983), ‘Mr. Alphabet Says’ (1983), ‘Perfect Murder’ (1983)
This one‐off project featured members from two other iconic Goth acts: The Cure frontman Robert Smith and Steve Severin, the bassist for Siouxsie and The Banshees.
The group’s sole release is ‘Blue Sunshine’, an album as strange and disorienting as the1978 cult horror film from which it borrows its name.
There is a layer of hazy psychedelia that hangs over tracks like ‘Punish Me With Kisses’ and ‘Perfect Murder’, which makes it entirely unique within the genre and should be of particular interest to Cure and Banshees fans looking to complete their music collection.
By the mid‐80s, Goth was moving away from its underground beginnings to become a modest commercial force, with albums by The Cure and The Sisters of Mercy getting wider exposure on MTV and rock radio.
But there is a purity and beautiful naiveté in the genre’s formative years that still resonates, before the biggest bands in the scene became burdened by the term “Goth,’ and did their best to escape it, abandoning many of the trappings and motifs that made it special.
But now, it’s time for you to don your black attire and eyeliner: what early 80s Goth acts do you feel deserve greater acclaim? Be sure to sound off in the comments.
And be sure to also check out our lists of Good Goth Music From 1985‐1990, Underrated 80’s British Goth Bands, Underrated 80’s UK Post‐punk bands and Top 10 Cure Albums, along with the list of honorable mentions below:
Honorable Mentions: The Sisters of Mercy, The Cure, Joy Division, Siouxsie & The Banshees, Christian Death, Bauhaus, The Mission UK, Fields of The Nephilim, Gene Loves Jezebel. Alien Sex Fiend, Dead Can Dance, The Birthday Party, This Mortal Coil, Tones on Tail, Clan of Xymox, Sex Gang Children, All About Eve, Theater of Hate