Very rarely does a band make a record so good that it can define a moment in time for an entire generation. Equally, it is incredibly rare, perhaps even more unlikely, that a band or artist can make an LP that is capable of spawning its own genre. However, when looking back at Bauhaus’ seminal album In the Flat Field, it’s hard to ignore that they did both with, seemingly, little to no effort. It’s a testament to their power as performers that they turned a distinctly dystopian genre into mainstream jubilance.
Bauhaus have always been on the outside looking in. Their avant-garde sound matches their unstoppable style and, when they first broke into the musical mainstream in 1980, the group had a debut record ready to kick punk to the curb and turn goth rock into an art form. Of course, the band were wholly unaware they were doing it at the time, for them, it was simply their debut LP.
Undoubtedly one of the first words that come to mind when asked to define goth music, Bauhaus have always had the guts of the scene at their grubby fingertips, ever since they released ‘Bela Lugosi’s Dead’—a song about the Hungarian born actor who played the definitive role of Count Dracula in the thirties. That said, they kicked things up a notch when they released their debut LP.
Between then and their debut album just a year later, the group had already gathered up a serious fanbase, all donning eyeliner and dyed black hair, Bauhaus had achieved what most bands can only hope for: cult status. With the release of their debut LP, In the Flat Field, the band confirmed the hype and announced themselves as an arthouse dream. It wasn’t all determined by goth but there is certainly elements of the theme running throughout the album.
A glam-rock project with a dark soul, the sound became a signifier of the band’s filthy output and suggested that their determination to keep a punk ethos while hamming up the romanticised vision of bleakness. It was a bold move only pushed further ahead when the band kicked the idea of a traditional album to the curb. The album featured none of their previously released material and was championed as the artiste’s new favourite band.
Perhaps one of the greatest notes on this record is that the band produced it themselves, insisting that nobody understood their sound but them. It was a defining moment of individualism that would not only help strengthen the band but add further plumage to the growing feathers of the gothic music scene. It was a notable period which would see the group establish their own style and swagger upon an already growing movement.
The album has become a staple of all rock ‘n’ roll with some serious connections to the post-punk sound most of all. But it’s hard to ignore just how pivotal the band, and this album, were in creating what would become known as the goth rock scene. Like all movements in music, the scene has been compartmentalised by millions of fans who have divided it up like hungry imperialist. However, the truth is, to ignore this album as a foundational stone in making goth music available to everybody would be to ignore one of the best records of the lot.
The album was so seamlessly a blend of punk attitudes with a dark thematic undercurrent that it ended up transcending the two moods of the day. The punks of Britain who had now relatively dispersed into different factions loved it, those who had taken the post-punk industrial sound loved it and, perhaps most importantly, the critics loved it too. It meant the LP was given more room than most and, with it, became one of the most important records of the time.
Listen below to Bauhaus’ album In the Flat Field and get a reminder of how goth went mainstream.