Back in the 1990s, I used to listen to a band called London After Midnight. The one album they’d released, called “Selected Scenes from the End of the World,” featured church bells, rain, minor key chords, and a general sense of melodrama.
An honorary niece of mine is into Goth music. The strange thing (to me) about music now is that it has no sense of time. To my niece, a band from the 1990s is just as relevant as a band from today.
And so I went looking for London After Midnight. Maybe I’d get lucky and my niece wouldn’t already know about them. I’d garner some cool-aunt points via text message and a Spotify link.
Then my mind was blown. The band still exists. Really? This was a Goth band from the 1990s. They weren’t, as far as I knew, a very big Goth band. I learned about them from that one friend who went to weird shows at that one venue. And yet here they are, still touring in Germany in the company of other bands I’m also having trouble believing still exist.
I looked closer. They exist, but the album doesn’t. The band is on Spotify, they are still touring, but the album I wanted to send my niece is missing. There’s a remake – but I listened to it, and it’s no better than okay. The church bells are grungy and not as cool-dramatic sounding, and it doesn’t have this neat enigmatic album cover above, but a less-subtle image of a plain old skeleton. It doesn’t have the sense of listening to drama in the dark. It’s blurry and overdone.
If I want to send the album I remember to my niece, I’m going to have to go looking for my own CD, and my own old CD burner, and make a physical copy for my niece – a retro idea if there ever was one. Do I even still have that album? Is the CD scratched, or will it play? Do I remember how to copy CDs?
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about meaning, and permanence, and what remains over time. There are a few human constants: we celebrate seasons, we celebrate endurance, we celebrate beginnings and endings, and at least at a ritual level we understand that beginnings and endings are mixed. We celebrate what doesn’t last.
I’ve moved past my own teenage/early-twenties melodrama phase, and I don’t listen to Goth music much anymore.
But I wonder if its endurance as a musical genre is simply this: an awareness that always, one way or another, something is ending.