Bauhaus – Go Away White (Cooking Vinyl)
Perhaps the best compliment that one can pay to Bauhaus‘ Go Away White, the Goth Godfathers’ first new studio album in a quarter century, is how excited it makes you for the possibility of additional efforts. But if we are to believe the press that comes with it, Go Away White is the end of Bauhaus. The band broke up (again) prior to the album’s release, making its surprising strength either a sigh of relief that they parlayed their reunion into a decent recording or a frustrated groan that they decided to throw in the towel.
One of the best things about this album is how it doesn’t take itself that seriously. The title, Go Away White, can take on a number of meanings and the music within it achieves the same results. I suppose there will be long time fans that view it from a darker perspective, but I believe ignoring that the members of Bauhaus might actually have an astute sense of humor prevents the listener from fully appreciating how good this album is.
Consider the band’s final tour, where vocalist Peter Murphy started each night by singing the band’s most famous song (“Bela Lugosi’s Dead”) upside down like a fucking bat. You could view that as one of the most pretentiously conceived ideas ever, or you can look at it as the result of nearly three decades of frustration: “Here’s the song you came to see, our debut single, the three minutes that encapsulated everything we did afterwards, and I’m singing it upside down…happy now?!”
From the sounds of Go Away White, the notion that Bauhaus had to revisit their past every single night, must have been somewhat of a drag. Start to finish, it resembles a cohesive and democratically conceived piece of work recorded with eyes ahead instead of looking backwards.
It alternates between the overly dramatic slow burns and post-punk mid-tempo dissonance, each one providing Murphy with a showcase for his low-end Bowie and, occasionally, an impressive vintage yell.
There are also moments of songs feeling half-finished or, on occasion, half-hearted.
“International Bullet Proof Talent” and “Endless Summer Of The Damned” sound clever in their titles alone, and prove to be repetitive filler that nearly derail the album’s fantastic second half.
It starts with “Saved,” an atmospheric dirge with minor-key harmonies, industrial rhythm loops and the compulsory church bell. It slowly trudges like a funeral procession until Murphy provides a haunting spoken word ending, which finds him repeating the word “saved” nine times.
It then goes directly into the high-maintenance fashion model observation “Mirror Remains,” a cautionary tale where the requirements of beauty are found to be ultimately futile in the end. In other words, they successfully tie-in the words “anorexia,” “bulimia” and “decay” together in under five minutes.
As guitarist Daniel Ash changes from heavily chorused guitar chords to a staccato pattern in the middle of the song, Murphy determines audibly “Right, that’s the solo there of some kind.”
In the background, you hear Ash correct him with the reply “That is the solo!”
Understanding that this is a project of consensus, Murphy acquiesces and attempts to offers the olive branch with “Alright… Well… That’s good!”
Besides being more considerate of each other’s feelings, Bauhaus’ advanced age has also found them honing their skills, acknowledging their silliness and striving to work as a solid musical unit, the very thing that brought them together thirty years ago.
Far from a funeral Go Away White is a celebration of the band’s camaraderie, a capricious look back that hints at what might have been had they been able to break free from the confines that their debut single unfairly set upon them. And because of that, it’s a shame that they decided to go away at all.
MP3s from Go Away White:
• Bauhaus – “Too Much 21st Century”
• Bauhaus – “International Bullet Proof Talent”
3 thoughts on “Bauhaus – Go Away White”
The back-and-forth about the guitar solo in “Mirror Remains” is priceless. I love that they just left that in the track. Otherwise, I agree that a lot of the album is kinda repetitive, but there are definitely a few great tracks that have made it into regular rotation for me, including Black Stone Heart (a very Bowie track that includes a good epitaph line for the band: “I go there with my darkness and go away white.”), Adrenalin and the lead track, Too Much 21st Century.
I don’t have much of a history with Bauhaus, I was more familiar with Murphy’s solo stuff, but taking this new album kind of out of the blue, I generally enjoyed it.
Love that line too and both songs you reference are good. I went in expecting the worst and walked away thinking, that wasn’t too bad!
BTW: I like the Murphy solo albums (and Love & Rockets) better than most Bauhuas records too, which would frustrate my friends who viewed Bauhaus with a much higher regard than me.
I had never seen Murphy sing Bela Lugosi’s Dead upside down so I went to youtube to see if I could find a clip. The only one I found was from 2005. Someone took a cell video of it at Coachella. Pretty wild indeed. He is the link if you are interested.