Bauhaus: Go Away White
There have been many band reunions over the years, but one of the most unlikely was Bauhaus. They were critics’ darlings, but very short lived. Peter Murphy left to pursue his solo career, and the rest of the band became Love and Rockets. Peter had some success especially with “Cut You Up,” and most people are familiar with Love and Rockets. Even the initial post-Bauhaus projects (Murphy in Dali’s Car, Daniel Ash and Kevin Haskins with Tones on Tail) became cult favorites. Suffice to say that this assembly of musicians got even bigger after the breakup. Once Love and Rockets faded Daniel Ash and David J. soldiered on as solos. So except for the legend that had risen around the seminal Goth/art/punk band, there was no real incentive for Bauhaus to reform.
In 2005 the Coachella Music Festival had a band drop out, and someone thought it might be worth a shot to see if Bauhaus would do it. Apparently it was worth the shot (and the money). Since they were together again more appearances were booked. Inevitably the path led to the studio where they recorded “Go Away White” in just 18 days. However the experience was less than a love-fest and it almost didn’t get finished. Even though the sessions took place in 2006 the album wasn’t released until 2008, with an announcement that the band was done for good.
As interesting as the story surrounding “Go Away White” may be, the burning question is what does Bauhaus sound like after 23 years? The answer is very good and surprisingly upbeat. Upbeat for these guys that is. Not that they didn’t have some bouncy tunes back in the day (“Kick in the Eye,” “Telegram Sam”), but they just seem to have been more loose and freewheeling in 2006. A lot of people also remember the more dark, arty, avant-garde music. That is here too. In fact the album seems to represent just about everything the band was into.
“Too Much 21st Century” grooves out with a bass line similar to The Beatles “Rain.” This tune is pretty straightforward, and could easily have been on a Peter Murphy solo album. What makes it better is the strength of David J’s bass, Kevin Haskins’ drums, Daniel Ash’s scraping guitar, and some good ol’ Love and Rockets style background harmonies.
The next tune goes a bit outside the mainstream, and begins to sound more like a band. “Adrenaline” still has a basic structure, and could again be at home on a Murphy album, but the nuances shift. There is more guitar “noise” and Peter starts to howl, scream and do that old high pitched nasal thing. Essentially though it’s a good driving alt-rocker.
On “Undone” a pattern begins to emerge even more. As the album progresses the true Bauhaus sound increases. A slow solid bass groove with fuzzy guitar, and minor (slightly off at times) key vocals with definite nasal tones. Now we’re talkin’!
“International Bulletproof Talent” seems more from the L&R songbook, but with Peter Murphy at the helm the song is closer to something like “The Sanity Assassin. It just has much bigger balls.
Moving to the arty side of things is “Endless Summer of the Damned.” Drum driven with Daniel Ash furiously picking out a single high note, and adding some big fuzz on the side. David J’s bass line is the familiar gloomy anchor paired with Murphy’s wail.
“Saved” goes right into that experimental art the critics used to eat up like Peanut M&Ms. Slow moving, groaning, repeated low sonar “plunks,” and we have a new masterpiece, right? Well it is interesting, but honestly this is the stuff I always skip on the old discs. It always came off as a bit masturbatory to me, and my opinion hasn’t changed.
Next we go deeper into the “art” with “Mirror Remains.” It has a groove so it is better listening than the previous track, but doesn’t hold up to very many repeats.
Time to tie it all together on “Black Stone Heart.” All the elements of style combine to create a catchy, artful, almost title track (“Go Away White” is repeated in the chorus). If there were to be only one example of what a truly modern Bauhaus sounds like, this would be it.
“The Dog’s a Vapour” 180s right back to “high art,” but I find this one much more compelling. The tension builds in a way that I just can’t turn away from. The track may not ever make it to a mix, but I never pass it when listening to this album.
The album closes with “Zikir.” This is a kind of tribal chant and recitation. I think they really didn’t have a way to efficiently wrap things up. A tight definite statement would have been nice, but what can you expect for the speed in which this album was done. The soft out is not the worst choice.
What we are left with is an album that is not a grand final statement, but rather a nice way to say goodbye. Instead of some live “greatest hits” venture, or a forced attempt at latter day hit making, Bauhaus gave us Bauhaus. “Go Away White” remains true to the legacy while adding new life to it. It will probably never match up to the predecessors in anyone’s ears, but neither should any Bauhaus fan pass it by. I am glad they decided to give it another go and did such a good job of it.
Peter Murphy – vocals
Daniel Ash – guitar
David J. – bass
Kevin Haskins – drums