3. Fetisch, X-mal Deutschland

Or: I was a teenage goth.

I was a teenage goth

As soon as I picked this out of its cover, I thought: I bet I don’t like this as much as I used to like this, and I was right. It all seems quite the dirge now – same pace (plodding), same drum beat (pounding), same guitar (fuzzing)– and I don’t really remember what any of my standout tracks were then. I can barely muster a standout track now.

It seems laughably downbeat today. Sample lyrics from ‘Young Man’: “Young man may die” (repeat three times). All this gloom and death was a natural progression from macabre-obsessed early adolescence: reciting the Lord’s Prayer backwards, witchcraft, spontaneous combustion and the part-work The Unexplained. Maybe being a goth was just about coming to terms with your own mortality.

Being a goth was definitely about coming to terms with your own sexuality. What does pop music do for adolescent girls and boys? They say it’s about belonging, being in this tribe, not that one. It’s also about separation. Pop let me to quantify my difference and protect myself, projecting a self that was something else. It let me to keep the world at arm’s length while I tried to understand it. Being a goth and a punk and a psychobilly were place markers along the track to the biggest difference of them all. I’d made it clear I was weird already. They’d get used to it.

So would I.

To like Scottish-German industrial bands made one a sore thumb in a world of Wham! (never liked them then, don’t like ’em now).

It’s also why I sound a bit posh, when I’m not a bit posh: little gradations of separation. It’s no coincidence that in my old goth circles there were plenty of us who ended up L, G and T.

Which one of these do I wish they’d play at the disco? I have no recollection now of what song I wanted to dance to but I do remember the kind of disco I wished I could dance at.

One day, me and my friends were were sitting on some steps by the beach, on a sunny afternoon (it’s hard being goth at the seaside: so much physical activity; so many healthy glows), discussing what we’d call our nightclubs. I don’t remember what theirs would be but mine was going to be called the German word for “prison”, whatever that was. I didn’t know what the German word for prison was but I knew that it beautifully captured what a disco should be.

Now I have a working knowledge of the language and I do know what the German word for “prison” is, I know damn well it doesn’t. (Look at those lyrics though! More hilarious gloom: ‘Verrachte dich/mishandel dich’, a snippet from ‘Kampfen’, one of the numbers I think I liked best then, though don’t ask me why.)

I only dipped my toes in the rusty waters of industrial pop. No Einsturzende Neubauten for me (though I know these were the most interesting and enduring), only Xmal and the disco-din of SPK. My heart really belonged to Siouxsie and Peter Murphy.

Would I buy this record now? Hell, no. Sex moans, echo chambers, pulsing drums – at best, it sounds like a series of Bauhaus b-sides.The cover is a po-mo delight though, with gorgeous typography. I would copy it over and over with my calligraphy pen, with dreams of being a record cover designer.

Fetisch by Xmal Deutschland

Label: 4AD.

Release date: 11 April 1983.

Chart position: This didn’t trouble the upper or the lower reaches of the album charts

Run-out message: Bubo Tapgore (?)

PS: The band were quite pretty.

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