MADELEINE BRAND, host:
Back now with DAY TO DAY.
(Soundbite of song, "Go Away White")
Mr. PETER MURPHY (Bauhaus): (Singing) I come to this darkness and go away white, go away white.
BRAND: Bauhaus is an art-rock band from the 1980s. Now 25 years after their last record, Bauhaus is releasing a new album. Music journalist Christian Bordal recently talked with two of the members, and he has this story.
CHRISTIAN BORDAL, reporting:
In the late '70s, a few punks took a page from David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust androgynous glam and started wearing heavy makeup, dressing in all black and singing rock dirges about death and darkness. Seminal English post-punk band Bauhaus was in the vanguard of that movement, which came to be known as gothic rock or just plain Goth.
Mr. DANIEL ASH (Guitarist, Bauhaus): The fact that we wore black, I think just - and our first single was called "Bela Legosi's Dead" I think might sort of lead people towards calling us a Goth band. But I mean, the media started that off.
BORDAL: That's Daniel Ash, the guitarist from Bauhaus.
Mr. ASH: We used to laugh about it, thinking that their hair was too big, and they had too much makeup on. They didn't have any talent, and we didn't think so, and we sort of got lumped in with that lot.
(Soundbite of music)
BORDAL: For a band that once wore plenty of makeup and rose out of coffins onstage and drove around in a Bau-hearse, methinks the Goth cap fits pretty well. But Ash says that Bauhaus saw themselves as more of an art band, hence the decision to name themselves after that early 20th century German school of art.
Mr. ASH: There's a huge contradiction in the band about that because sonically we're very much like the art movement Bauhaus; in other words extremely simple and functional. And yet visually we're very flamboyant. So there's a complete juxtaposition there between the sound and the vision.
Mr. KEVIN HASKINS (Drummer, Bauhaus): I think visually, we weren't.
BORDAL: That's Kevin Haskins, the band's drummer.
Mr. HASKINS: The only conscious decision we made was to dress in black.
Mr. ASH: I don't think that was conscious, though. I don't remember ever having that conversation. We just naturally...
Mr. HASKINS: I imagine we did. Maybe we didn't.
(Soundbite of song)
Mr. MURPHY: (Singing) It'll take you to the top, and out to the edge, (unintelligible) through your blood, (unintelligible)
BORDAL: The spectacle and culture and community that grew up around this music is part of what made Bauhaus and other post-punk and Goth bands so attractive to fans, and this culture is still alive and well today, which is one reason why it continues to pay for the members of Bauhaus to overcome their artistic differences and get together for occasions reunions.
(Soundbite of song)
BORDAL: In 2005, the band decided to get back together due to what Ash calls...
Mr. ASH: Irresistible offers from large corporations.
BORDAL: That's in the form of the promoter of the Coachella Music Festival. Kevin Haskins elaborates.
Mr. HASKINS: I think, you know, a band dropped out, and I think he probably thought there's no way they're going to do it, give it a go, and you know, it was a really good offer.
(Soundbite of laughter)
BORDAL: Bauhaus only lasted four years together before lead singer Peter Murphy left the band in 1983 to pursue a solo career. Eventually the remaining members formed Love and Rockets, which stayed together for 17 years, but the combination of Murphy's singular, weeping wail, the Haskins brothers' chugging rhythm section, and Daniel Ash's aggressive guitar drone was somehow greater than the sum of its parts, and on the new album, "Go Away White," there are moments when that old chemistry reignites.
(Soundbite of song, "Too Much 21st Century")
Mr. MURPHY: (Unintelligible) singer, a better actor, better job.
BORDAL: The record's opening track is a pretty un-Bauhaus-sounding, almost jaunty rock tune with a Taxman bass line called "Too Much 21st Century." But from there the band settles comfortably and effectively into its familiar, spare, rock-in-a-minor-key gloom grooves. Unfortunately, in the second half of the album the songs start to dissolve into slow, maudlin, melodramatic self-indulgence.
(Soundbite of song)
Mr. MURPHY: (Singing) The moonlight (unintelligible) the dogs of April...
BORDAL: Ash says the record was written and recorded in only 18 days.
Mr. ASH: This was us four in one big room, for want of a better word, jamming, until the magic started happening.
BORDAL: But the magic didn't last very long.
Mr. ASH: There were conflicts in the studio, big time, and you know, I'm not going to deny that, and it sort of broke the band up. I think the old term is musical differences.
BORDAL: It's too bad. A few less musical differences, a few more days in the studio might have resulted in a more complete album. As it is, lead singer Peter Murphy, who converted to Islam in the '90s, has gone back to his solo career in Turkey, where he lives with his wife and kids.
And Bauhaus's remaining members are re-forming their other disbanded project, Love and Rockets, to play this year's Coachella music festival. But if you're a Bauhaus fan, this new record, though less than fully realized, may well be your last chance to hear these reluctant proto-Goths rediscover a little of their old alchemy, at least until the next irresistible offer from a large corporation.
For NPR News, I'm Christian Bordal.
(Soundbite of song)
BRAND: The band is Bauhaus. The new CD is called "Go Away White." Christian Bordal also has a new CD out; it's called "Seven Songs," with his band Emma Lazarus.
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