CMJ 98 / New York Delancey Street Bowery Ballroom

Look upon their works, [B]Placebo[/B], and despair...

Holy dank dungeons full of scary cobwebs, Batman. Every art-stude bedsit from Leeds to Northampton must be empty tonight. They’re all here: old goths, young goths, neo-goths, crypto-goths and MARILYN MANSON fans. Share prices in fishnet stockings and musty Victorian lace have rocketed. The European Union eyeliner lake has run dry.

Which is baffling, because [a]Bauhaus[/a] were always way too stylish for turnip-faced goth orthodoxy. Even 15 years after their prime, the pulse-racing precipices of ‘In The Flat Field‘ or ‘Passion Of Lovers‘ still excite the doomed teenage romantic in us all. Peter Murphy might be El Ponce supreme, but the blood-sucking glamour of ‘Kick In The Eye‘ and ‘She’s In Parties‘ remains undimmed.

Sure, root around in this primal murk and you might unearth ANDREW ELDRITCH‘s subterranean croak or ROBERT SMITH‘s autumnal guitars. But equally evident are JOY DIVISION‘s urban tribalism, NICK CAVE‘s lurid melodrama, PJ HARVEY‘s glistening viscera and SUEDE‘s doomy grandeur.

Bauhaus are only ‘goth’ like RADIOHEAD are ‘prog’.

Murphy is a scream, but still too energised to qualify as a has-been pop clown. In his Robes Of Doom and Byronic sleeves, he’s half Nureyev, half ’70s BOWIE on mime-troupe-casualty overload. Fittingly, then, the grand finale is a mighty collision of Dave’s ‘Ziggy Stardust‘ with T REX classic ‘Telegram Sam‘, a flamethrower glam racket which burns itself out in a blue flame of post-rock fury. Magnificent.

Then the Robes Of Doom reappear for the encore of ‘Bela Lugosi’s Dead‘, ten semi-legendary minutes of proto-techno pulses and malevolent guitars. It still sounds spine-chillingly alien, albeit slightly more sedate than the brain-lacerating version stored in our adolescent memory. But then Murphy gurgles, “[I]Alone in a darkened rooooom. The Count!!![/I]”, which makes everything alright again.

Oh yes, they remain screamingly theatrical and gratingly pretentious, but only in that brazenly haughty way which once fired British pop to heroic heights of bonkers greatness. Look upon their works, PLACEBO, and despair. Bauhaus are back, sounding less like an ’80s revival turn than an alternate post-punk universe of art-school fright and eternal night. Who would have guessed it? Black is the new black after all.