It is with no small amount of anticipation that I have awaited the release of Go Away White, the first Bauhaus album to come out since I started listening to them circa 1985, two years after they broke up. This is my first ever chance, then, to hear newly released material by one of my favorite bands. The CD arrived from Amazon yesterday and is sitting now on my desk, shrinkwrapped. I am a little scared of it. My expectations are sky-high; nothing less than a transcendent experience will do, and that’s just setting yourself up for disappointment, isn’t it?
It sure looks good. In contrast to the old Bauhaus albums, all of which were predominantly black, it is almost entirely white. The cover image is some kind of angel (or devil) (something with wings, anyway) with its back turned. All the text is in white as well—the embossed title on the front is easy to read, the song titles on the back much less so. But with some squinting I can make them out: The first song is called “Too Much 21st Century,” the last song “Zikir.” Further study reveals that in the songwriting credits David J. is using his last name, Haskins, for the first time.
I find this change in art direction interesting given that the last song on the last original Bauhaus album, “Hope,” was uncharacteristically uplifting for a band whose modus operandi was to live on the dark side. Will this album pick up from there and be all inspirational-like? The song titles “Black Stone Heart” and “Endless Summer of the Damned” indicate otherwise.
Alright, time to stop pussyfooting around. It’s 10:22 and the shrinkwrap is coming off.
Inside there’s a white-on-black sticker that seems to show what the cover would have looked like in Ye Olde Bauhaus Style. There’s a little more information in again very hard-to-read text on the inside cover. Apparently the cover image is something called “Bethesda, angel of the healing waters” by Dominique Duplaa. The disc itself has the Bauhaus logo in a similar white-on-white motif.
10:27: The disc is in the player.
10:28 “Too Much 21st Century” begins with a grinding guitar riff; the rhythm section kicks in; and there’s Pete Murphy’s voice. We’re in business. The guitar sounds very Love and Rockets-ish; the bassline reminds me of “Rain” (the Beatles’ “Rain,” not Tones On Tail’s). Lyrics reference “Swing the Heartache.”
10:32. “Adrenalin”: Fuzztone guitar, some sort of Latinate muttering from Murphy. Later he starts shouting “Shift, crank, pull.” Then back to the muttering. Is it German? Who knows?
10:38: “Undone”: Not the Guess Who song. Not a great song either. Getting a little worried.
10:42 “International Bulletproof Talent”: Some sort of glam-rock. First line a reference to T. Rex. There’s David J. (Haskins) on backing vocals; haven’t heard Daniel Ash’s voice yet, I don’t think. Seems like kind of a waste.
10:46: “Endless Summer Of the Damned”: Sounds most like old Bauhaus so far. More rough edges, loud, Murphy summoning up that demonic bellow. But sort of catchy too. Two thumbs up. End of Side 1, I guess?
10:51: “Saved”: Sax intro from D. Ash. Operatic vocal, makes me think of “The Three Shadows” or “Crowds.” What’s that bit at the end? Let’s rewind real quick. “You are entering a pearl corridor/Lying on your crimson spot/I become unconscious/Saved.” Always was hard to tell what Murphy was talking about.
10:58: “Mirror Remains”: Some kind of statement on aging? “We put the clocks forward/we put the clocks back/the mirror is never fooled.” Dialogue in the middle. Peter: “Needs a solo there of some kind.” Daniel: “This is the solo!” One-note piano at the end.
11:03: “Black Stone Heart”: There’s the title: “I come with this darkness and go away white.” Reverb guitar (see also: “Movement of Fear”), whistling, piano again. Nice groove from Los Bros. Haskins. Multitracked Murphy vocals over squealing Ash guitar. Me likey.
11:07: “The Dog’s a Vapour”: Classic Bauhaus with a touch of Hot Trip to Heaven-era L&R. Guitar kicks in at about 4:15 mark. Builds to a powerful crescendo, climax, whatever you want to call it.
11:14: “Zikir”: The denoument. Quiet and atmospheric; Murphy chanting “Loves me. Loves me not.” Things finish on a mysterious and ambivalent note.
11:18: And there we have it. I can breathe a sigh of relief; I’m not completely blown away, but there’s a lot of potential here. I think it’ll grow on me. But in the meantime I feel like listening to Mask, Burning from the Inside, Pop, Express, and maybe Earth-Sun-Moon. Back in a few hours.