Version 3.0 Updated 4 November 2003
Version 2.0 Updated 26 February 2002
Version 1.0 Created 17 November 2000
Goth is not heavy metal. It is difficult to define which properties are essential
to make a song Goth or Darkwave. Originally Goth was a shortened form of the term
"Gothic Punk", a term coined by British music reviewers in the early 1980's to
describe the Punk bands Joy Division and Bauhaus. Lyrics are Goth if
they describe feelings such as despair, loss, alienation, self-loathing, or
loneliness. If the lyrics are angry, then they express anger at oneself. Hence they
are generally not violent, or political in nature. Similarly, the music itself
reflects these feelings and themes. The exact type of instrumentals and
arrangement varies greatly, ranging from minimalist Punk Guitar bands like
Joy Division, to elaborate, big budget movie theme type orchestral
arrangements from Dead can Dance. Similarly, it can range harsh,
feedback laden guitar and drum arrangements from Bauhaus, to the beautiful
and eerie electronic music like Switchblade Symphony. The term also applies
to the almost mainstream Dance tracks by Siouxsie and the Banshees, and the
melancholy songs by The Cure. The focus of Goth music is on the ambiance,
often accomplished by the use of layering of tones and chord progressions. The
term Darkwave shall be used here to refer to the second wave of Goth Music
that started in the 1990's, which has Goth themed lyrics and ambiance, but
often makes more use of synthesizers (similar to 1980's New Wave.)
Classic Goth Tracks:
These tracks were selected because they are commonly agreed to be Goth. Furthermore,
they demonstrate the range of artists and styles that fall under this category. They
are arranged in alphabetical order by title, and order should not be interpreted as
- A Forest by The Cure (1980)
- The Cure, led by Robert Smith after he left Siouxsie and the Banshees, use novel musical effects and pensive lyrics.They have been cutting albums continously from 1979 to 2000. This track is melancholy and mellow. A slow progression soft, low chords adds to the sad ambiance. The lyrics tell of becoming lost in the woods, looking for a girl, who probably wasn't really there.
- All Night Long by Peter Murphy (1988)
- Peter Murphy was the lead singer of Bauhaus, and hence his is the voice that sang the classic Bela Lugosi's Dead. After Bauhaus broke up, Peter Murphy has continued to evolve artistically during his solo career. The instrumentals of this track focus on two voices of taiko drums and other Asian percussion, to which guitars and synthesizers are gradually added. The lyrics are poetic and a bit ambiguous, use rather graphic light and dark imagery, and seem to be a love-song of sorts.
- Anywhere Out of the World by Dead Can Dance (1987)
- The group Dead Can Dance creates beautiful, melancholy and eerie music, the ambiance of which is the epitome of Goth/Darkwave, although the arrangements are more like classical music or high budget Movie theme songs. This orchestral track, taken from their 1987 album, Within the Realm of a Dying Sun uses vibes and chimes, along with a slow crescendo of strings to create a truly eerie ambiance. The lyrics reflect upon the meaninglessness of life pursuits.
- Bela Lugosi's Dead by Bauhaus (1979)
- Bauhaus, led by Peter Murphy, performed this track for the vampire movie The Hunger. Shortly thereafter, the fans of this band began dressing in Black, and the Goth movement was born. This song is the prototype of Goth Punk Ambiance. It is also used in the 'Goth Talk' segment on Saturday Night Live. This is their most popular and well known track.
- Black Celebration by Depeche Mode (1986)
- Depeche Mode was one of the pioneering groups of synthesizer music, starting back in 1981 and continuing until present. While their early work can best by described as upbeat New Wave, by 1985 their music had evolved and taken on the essential characteristics of the Dark wave movement five to ten years ahead of their time. This is the title track from their 1986 album, which was written during the height of the AIDS crisis, and which is arguable the quintessential Darkwave album, even though it predates that style by at least five years. (One can even speculate that the title may be derived taken from the term "Black Party", which at that time referred to an AIDS benefit party.) Instrumentally this track has an ominous layering of chords on top of a progression of xylophone like eight notes. The lyrics relate feelings of helplessness and longing as they celebrate that they have seen the end of "another black day."
- Bloodflowers by The Cure (2000)
- This ballad is the last track of the album of the same title, which is believed to be the final album from The Cure. Starting from a simple drumbeat, it blooms as the synthesizers and guitars burst in. Several atmospheric interludes are used to punctuate transitions within the lyrics. The lyrics are highly symbolic and poetic, and relate a conversation between the narrator and a lover about "flowers". The lover claimed the flowers would never fade and never die, while the narrator claimed that they always fade and always die.
- Boys Don't Cry by The Cure (1979)
- This track's lyrics reflect loneliness, feelings of abandonment, and the inhibitions about to expressing emotions.
- Charlotte Sometimes by The Cure (1981)
- This track has dreamy instrumentals, and lyrics about alienation and longing.
- Cities in Dust by Siouxsie and the Banshees (1985)
- Siouxsie and the Banshees, led by Siouxsie Sioux were very influential in the early Goth movement, although some of their Music is too mainstream pop-like to be considered Goth. Siouxsie Sioux has been called the 'Elizabeth Taylor' of Goth, and is attributed with setting many of the standards in Goth Women's fashion, including fishnet stockings, high leather boots, heavy eye makeup, and S&M regalia. While their music generally a bit a playfull, with a tempo very suitable for dancing, their lyrics often dealt with isolation, suicide and darker aspects of human sexuality. This slightly sinister dance tune has lyrics that describes a city being in ruins.
- Cuts You Up by Peter Murphy (1990)
- The instrumentals for this track use woodwinds on top of a steady, mostly quarter note, drum beat. The lyrics suggest being tormented by a secret love affair.
- Double Dare by Bauhaus (1980)
- This is one of the most popular tracks from Bauhaus. The vocals are a bit like shouting, appropriate since the lyrics are a dare to 'be real' and honestly state your convictions, in spite of the consequences.
- Dream On by Depeche Mode (2001)
- The instrumentals of this track include synthesizers and an uncharacteristic (for Depeche Mode,) acoustic guitar. The dark and poetic lyrics seem to reflect a need love in a hollow, self-destructive life of partying.
- Dressed in Black by Depeche Mode (1986)
- This moody synthesizer track uses a slow, steady beat for the base line, and adds slow and ominous chord progressions above. Apart from the title's obvious associations with Goth movement, the lyrics relate submission to dominant mistress.
- Enjoy The Silence by Depeche Mode (1990)
- This track has a dance type beat with ominous synthesizer cords and a minimalist guitar part. The lyrics express that some things do not actually need to be vocalized to be expressed.
- Face to Face by Siouxsie and the Banshees (1992)
- This track is dark, brooding and erotic, and probably this group's song with the most Goth ambiance. The tempo is suggestive of a Tango. The lyrics tell of knowing you should resist, but being unable.
- Fascination Street by The Cure (1989)
- This base heavy, gritty track is considered one of their darkest songs.
- Fear (of the Unknown) by Siouxsie and the Banshees (1991)
- This is a Goth dancetrack. The lyrics muse how fear of the unknown protects you from harm, but also can prevent you from living.
- Get The Balance Right by Depeche Mode (1982)
- Chimes are used for ornamentation in the synthesizer track. Lyrics relate the need to get the balance right in life, as viewed in a cynical worldview.
- Gutter Glitter by Switchblade Symphony (1995)
- This track is a beautiful, eerie, and ethereal. This track is an ideal example Darkwave. It makes unique use chimes and bells, along with synthesizers and vocal choral rounds.
- I Feel Loved by Depeche Mode (2001)
- This track features almost Latin sounding percussion, synthesizers and a theremin type effect. The lyrics relate how feeling loved provides motivation during "the long dark night of my soul."
- I Feel You by Depeche Mode (1993)
- This track uses samples of electronic noise, high-energy rock percussion, and feedback-laden guitars. The lyrics relate an obsession like interest by the narrator in the listener.
- In Between Days by The Cure (1985)
- This tracks lyrics are about feeling old, lonely, and guilty after a lover that has left.
- In The Flat Field by Bauhaus (1980)
- Low, long chords in the background give an ominous sound to this track. The lyrics express fear and confusion, and contain many allusions to classical mythology.
- In the wake of Adversity by Dead Can Dance (1987)
- This melancholy orchestral track has accompanying lyrics about alienation and being undervalued.
- Just Like Heaven by The Cure (1987)
- This track actually become popular in the mainstream audience. The instrumentals use a complex layering of base and guitar parts. The lyrics tell of a narrator realizing that he loves a girl, but losing her my being too introspective and procrastinating about telling her.
- Leave in Silence by Depeche Mode (1982)
- The synthesizer instrumentals are occasionally augmented by wordless vocals. Narrator states how he cannot articulate properly how he needs to leave a dysfunctional relationship.
- Lovesong by The Cure (1989)
- This is one of their more popular tracks, with clean and relatively simple guitar and a simple drumbeat. The lyrics are a melancholy declaration of eternal love.
- Lucretia, My Reflection by Sisters of Mercy (1987)
- The Sisters of Mercy, led by Andrew Eldritch, kept the Goth movement alive in the UK during the late 1980's and early 1990's.This is a drum heavy track, with lyrics expressing cynicism, dissolution, and loss.
- Lullaby by The Cure (1989)
- This complex track manages to be simultaneously both melancholy and eerie. The instrumentals use full string orchestra passages to ornament the standard guitar, base, and drum arrangement. Robert Smith's soft, almost whispered vocals narrate a nightmare of being unable to move or call out while being eaten alive a "spider-man" who has crept into his bedroom at night.
- Mabey Someday by The Cure (2000)
- The instrumentals on this track are characteristically guitar heavy, but also use an electric organ and a simple drum beat. The moody lyrics relate a lost relationship, and while acknowledging that it is impossible to return to the way things were at this time, they also ambiguously express a longing and hope that someday perhaps they will.
- Master and Servant by Depeche Mode (1984)
- This rather bizarre sounding, synthesizer dance track uses a synthesized whip sound and pinball bell type sounds. The slightly naughty lyrics tell of a dominant/submissive erotic game.
- Melt! by Siouxsie and the Banshees (1982)
- This track's instrumentals have a very dark sound. The lyrics are evidently about melting with desire, bondage, and suicide.
- Mephisto Waltz by Mephisto Waltz (1995)
- Mephisto Waltz was formed by former Christian Death member, Bari-Bari. This classic Darkwave track bearing the groups name is a very sinister, electronic waltz.
- Night Like This by The Cure (1985)
- Instrumentally, a saxophone has been added for this Track, and a more Jazzy sound results. The lyrics tell of the obsessive longing for the return of a lover who has left.
- Other Voices by The Cure (1981)
- This track is melancholy and a bit eerie. The lyrics about 'distant noises, other voices' and guilt about sin.
- Overground by Siouxsie and the Banshees (1984)
- This track starts out melancholy, and then become a declarative, and then goes out melancholy. The lyrics muse about leaving the underground for overground, the world of bland, everyday life without personal identity.
- Peek A Boo by Siouxsie and the Banshees (1988)
- Surprising upbeat and pop in its sound, this track has humorous, campy Goth lyrics.
- Pictures of You by The Cure (1990)
- This is consider one of their darkest songs. The lyrics tell of remember and longing for a lover the narrator couldn't hold onto.
- Policy of Truth by Depeche Mode (1990)
- This is another dance type track with sinister sounding synthesizer parts. The lyrics relate how the listener shall have to face the consequences of not having concealed something, based upon a previously sworn to policy of truth.
- Question of Time by Depeche Mode (1986)
- The instrumentals for this track include the use of Electric Guitars and synthesizers. In the lyrics, the Narrator expresses paranoia and a need to protect the object of his affections from those who would manipulate her.
- Shadowplay by Joy Division (1979)
- The early works of the Punk band Joy Division, led by Ian Curtis, set the melancholy tone of the Goth Punk movement. Their 1979 album, Unknown Pleasures, is considered by many to be the darkest rock album of all time. The instrumentals can best be described as relentlessly harsh and brutal. The lyrics are about the 'City of the Night' and contain confession of betrayal.
- Shake The Disease by Depeche Mode (1985)
- This synthesizer heavy dance track uses non-word vocals as ornaments. In the lyrics, the narrator bemoans his inability to communicate.
- She's Lost Control by Joy Division (1979)
- This track makes interesting use of unusual percussion, electronic generated sound, and passages in which the guitar plays single notes. The lyrics are dark and brooding, talking about loss of control.
- Stripped by Depeche Mode (1986)
- An audio sample of what sounds like an outboard motor initially provides the beat, upon which synthesizes are added. The lyrics relate the rather sinister desires resulting from an obsessive intimacy.
- Subway by Peter Murphy (1995)
- The instrumentals on this track make use of a theremin, piano, chimes, and assorted synthesizer and electronic effects. The overall effect matches the lyrics, which suggest a frustrating, claustrophobic closeness without love.
- Summoning of the Muse by Dead Can Dance (1987)
- This orchestral track combines a female choir and church bells to give the impression of judgment day.
- Temple of Love by Sisters of Mercy (1992)
- This is arguably their most popular track. The instrumental emphasize electric guitar and drums at a fairly fast tempo (mostly eight and sixteenth notes,) and mysterious, Middle Eastern sounding female backup vocals. It is just over 8 minutes long. The lyrics describe hot the 'Temple of Love' is where you flee for refuge from fear and pain.
- Ten Fifteen Saturday Night by The Cure (1979)
- This track makes interesting use of a dripping faucette. The lyrics reflect loneliness and boredom, waiting for the phone call that isn't coming.
- Terror Couple Kill Colonel by Bauhaus (1980)
- This track is a bit pretty and mellow for Bauhaus fare, and uses occasional chimes for accents. The lyrics are about a murder investigation.
- The Last Beat of my Heart by Siouxsie and the Banshees (1991)
- This melancholy balad has Celtic and military sounding elements. The lyrics lament being broken up with.
- This Corrosion by Sisters of Mercy (1987)
- This eclectic composition uses liturgical sounding chorals, a synthesized harpsichord, electric guitars and heavy percussion.
- Walking in My Shoes by Depeche Mode (1993)
- This is a somber, synthesizer track. In the lyrics, the narrator requests that the listener defer judging him.
- World in My Eyes by Depeche Mode (1990)
- This synthesizer dance track has a slow, ominous base cord progression, and a contrasting fast, light treble line. In the lyrics, the narrator claims that he will show the listener everything in the world without moving.
- Xavier by Dead Can Dance (1987)
- This orchestal track uses instruments including a harpsicord and brass. Velvety male vocals sing lyrics that tell a tragic story of forbidden love.
- X-Files Theme by Mark Snow (1996)
- This is eerie sounding electronic music. Also, it is associated with the cult TV show which has become a Goth cultural icon.
Non-Goth Tracks with Goth Themes:
The following list of tracks represent songs by artists who are not considered
Goth or Darkwave. These songs nonetheless either express Goth themes, or have a
Goth sound to them. They should be staples of Halloween party tapes, and may also
be considered to add variety to Goth mixes. Again, they are arranged in alphabetical
order by title, and order should not be interpreted as ranking.
- Beautiful People by Marylin Manson (1996)
- Marylin Manson fans tend to identify themselves as Goth, although some of the Goth purists claim that no Goth Music has been recorded after 1982, and his work is more often classified as shock metal. Both claims and rumors of Satanism and unusual sexual activities swirled about around this artist in his heyday. In any case, he is talented showman who puts on an excellent concert, and who has collected a powerful fan base. This is his signature piece. It features a rapid drum beat, frantic and dissonant guitar chords, and eerie electronic sounds. The vocals are shouted and the lyrics espouse contempt for people in general.
- Black Velvet by Alannah Myles (1989)
- This song has Goth lyrics, although the style is more Jazz-Rock.
- Building a Mystery by Sarah McLachlan (1997)
- This is an Alternative style ballad, pensive and with a slow tempo. The lyrics describe a Goth guy.
- Everyday Is Like Sunday by Morrissey (1988)
- Morrissey is the former lead singer of the Smiths who went on to a successful solo career. He is known for his unconventional opinions, rich tenor voice, and lyrics that deal with loneliness, poverty, criminal behavior, and other dark issues. Instrumentally this track is complex and fully developed, with drums, guitar, synthesizers and a probably synthesized string ensemble. The vocals are by Morrissey in his crooning, rich, tenor voice. The lyrics reflect a tired boredom, like an idle, rainy Sunday afternoon.
- Gravedigger by Dave Matthews (2003)
- Dave Matthews is founder of the Dave Matthews Band, one of the quintessential Alternative bands of the mid 1990s. His works often make use of instruments more often used in Jazz or Country music. There are two versions of this track on his 2003 solo album, Some Devil. The acoustic version has a string ensemble in the background and is haunting. The lyrics recite the names and dates on tombstones and relate significant events about the individuals’ lives or deaths.
- Head Like A Hole by Nine Inch Nails (1989)
- Nine Inch Nails is essentially the artist Trent Reznor, whose controversial lyrics and pretty face made him the spokesman of the Industrial music movement in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. At that time, the term “Goth-Industrial” was used to encompass both Goth and Industrial music as one club culture. This is his signature piece, and as per the genre it makes heavy use of synthesizers and electronic noises. The Lyrics relate an unhealthy obsession with money, and the refrain is a shouting refusal to submit.
- Hotel California by The Eagles (1976)
- This is a dark and highly symbolic Rock song about a nightmare.
- How Soon Is Now? by The Smiths (1984)
- The Smiths were a very popular dance club band in the mid 1980’s. While they did not dress in a Goth style, their lyrics deal with dark themes and are some of the darkest of the period. Their lead singer Morrissey went on to a very successful solo career. In this track, the percussion taps out an excellent dance beat, with fairly minimalist guitar and synthesizer on top. The lyrics reflect the despair, alienation and rejection of the chronically single.
- I'm Going Slightly Mad by Queen (1991)
- This is a very Goth sounding, tongue in cheek song about mental illness.
- Instant Club Hit (You'll Dance To Anything) by The Dead Milkmen (1987)
- The Dead Milkmen can best be described as an underground, comic, punk band. This track is a politically incorrect parody of the Dance music of the early 1980's, and the lyrics lampoon the club scene in general and Goths in particular. The artists Siouxsie Sioux and Depeche Mode are mentioned by name.
- Love to Hate You by Erasure (1991)
- This Techno style dance track with campy Goth sounding interludes and lyrics that relate a dysfunctional relationship.
- Moon Over Bourbon Street by Sting (1986)
- While the term Vampire is never used, the narrator of the describes himself as being a self loathing predator that preys on people in New Orleans, just like one of Anne Rice's Vampires.
- One Headlight by The Wallflowers (1996)
- This alternative track's lyrics express some very Goth themes if you listen closely enough.
- Pressure by BillyJoel (1981)
- This artistic track features a neurotic sounding eighth note melody on a synthesizer and lyrics expressing a claustrophobic mania.
- Sexy Boy by Air (1998)
- This Electronica track captures the Darkwave sound. With the exception of the phrase "sexy boy", the lyrics are in French, giving additional mystery.
- She Blinded Me with Science by Thomas Dolby (1982)
- This is a period piece in early, experimental New Wave music using synthesizers, with a campy Goth sound to it.
- Small Town Boy by The Bronski Beat (1984)
- This track mixes a dance beat with melancholy, falsetto vocals. The lyrics express alienation and the need to leave home and find your identity.
- Sunglasses at Night by Corey Hart (1983)
- This often overlooked, guitar and synthesizer heavy hit has a very Goth sound to it.
- Sweet Dreams by The Eurythmics (1983)
- This eerie, ethereal, and sinister sounding early New Wave classic remains popular in dance clubs.
- Talking in Your Sleep by The Romantics (1983)
- This song has Goth lyrics and presents a dark ambiance, despite its relatively simple rhythm and melody.
- Vampires by The Pet Shop Boys (1999)
- The Petshop Boys were pioneers of the New Wave movement in the early 1980's, and most of there previous work would be classified as New Wave and/or Dance. This is one of several tracks from their 1999 album Nightlife , which have a very Goth/Darkwave ambiance and subject matter. In addition to the obvious subject matter and title, this track has pensive, melancholy sound and lyrics which are suggestive of dark eroticism.