On Glass: The Singles
Crackle is a definitive collection of Bauhaus’ best and best-known songs. The influence of Bauhaus can be heard in many bands, from Sisters of Mercy to Psychotica, who align themselves under the gothic banner. The difference between the original and the flattering imitation is that there is no pretension in the original. Who else could avoid sounding hopelessly smarmy or tongue-in-cheek while singing the phrase “Undead, undead, undead,” the way Bauhaus can on their most popular song, “Bela Lugosi’s Dead.” This haunting, almost spiritual song — used so effectively over the opening credits of the Tony Scott film The Hunger — builds in atmosphere for nearly three minutes before Peter Murphy’s bleached-bone vocals creep in. By the time Murphy hypnotically moans, “Oh Beh-lah/Bela’s not dead” near the song’s conclusion, Lugosi’s spirit has been invoked nearly to the point of presence in the room. Nobody does it better.
Bauhaus exposed and analyzed the double edged sword that is the nature of fame on songs like “She’s in Parties” and “Spirit,” which is included here in its up-beat, calypso version rather than the provocative dirge found on the album The Sky’s Gone Out. It might have been startling to have included both versions of “Spirit” as a way of demonstrating how Bauhaus could dramatically shift moods just by altering a song’s tempo. “Terror Couple Kill Colonel,” with its piercing arabesque guitar, tells a story of kidnap and torture inspired by a headline Murphy read in a newspaper. Other dark delights among the 16 tracks include “In the Flat Field,” “Kick in the Eye,” “Silent Hedges,” and a faithful cover of Bowie’s “Ziggy Stardust.” Conspicuous in their absence are “Lagartija Nick,” “Rose Garden Funeral of Sores,” and the band’s stunning interpretation of T Rex’s “Telegram Sam,” but then, an addiction to the music of Bauhaus always did have something to do with a longing that could never really be sated.
On Glass: The Singles collects the esoteric solo work of former Bauhaus bassist David J from 1983 to 1985: the years between the dissolution of Bauhaus and the formation of Love & Rockets (which everyone who has been paying attention in class already knows is just Bauhaus without Peter Murphy). As a bassist, J was never put in the spot light, so you might be surprised at the incredible range and versatility displayed over the course of these 15 songs. “The Promised Land” features a sax solo that would wake the dead and have them jumping in the boneyard, as the saying goes. “I Can’t Shake This Shadow of Fear” has J’s vocal delivery coming off with the punk bravado of Billy Idol or Joe Strummer, mixed with that suave devilishness personified by Howard Devoto. On “Crocodile Tears and the Velvet Cosh” — I swear — he sounds just like Bob Dylan. This isn’t a mainstream-rock release by any stretch of the imagination, but if you’re into some of the more eclectic new bands, such as New York’s own Firewater or Congo Norvell, you’ll probably dig it.