Before I begin it would like it to be known that both the terms post-punk and goth were not used during the 80’s in the SF Bay Area. If they were I never heard them. I used to buy an 80’s music magazine called Star Hits back then that would feature a whole lot of alternative(post-punk) bands and they never used the terms ‘post-punk’ or ‘goth’ so take that for what you will.
You read that right, post-punk is not a subgenre of goth music. I can’t believe that I even have to write this post, but over the last few weeks I’ve seen younger people insist that all post-punk music is goth and that it has a place under the goth umbrella. NO.
The term post-punk is pretty new and wasn’t even used back in the 80’s. I was a teen then and never heard the term. In fact I don’t ever remember hearing it until the internet came about. The 80’s bands currently being given this name were called ‘alternative’ or ‘modern rock’ in the 80’s. Alternative in the 80’s meant that you were a band whose influence came from punk, glam, electronic or any other earlier genre of music. That is why so many bands sounded different from one another; bands would often have multiple genre influences and create their own sound. They did not sound like all of the pop and rock bands being played on mainstream radio stations during that time, and that is why they were all lumped together. The term ‘goth’ wasn’t widely used until the early 90’s. I personally didn’t hear it until 90-91. So all of the 80’s bands that are now considered goth were originally considered alternative(post-punk). Goth music came directly out of post-punk(alternative) music and morphed into its own separate genre. However, not all bands under the goth banner sounded exactly the same. So, goth is a subgenre of post-punk(alternative) that now has its own subgenres of music. The larger alternative(post-punk) bands, that are now considered goth, such as The Cure and Siouxsie And The Banshees, rode the line that divided alternative(post-punk) and mainstream type music. I saw The Cure in a big arena in 1987, so they have never been a lesser known band. Other alternative(post-punk) bands, such as U2 and INXS, morphed into totally mainstream bands by the late 80’s.
In the early 90’s record execs started to call bands such as Nirvana alternative in order to sell more records since the term exuded a rebellious mystique among mainstream music listeners. You too can be ‘different’ if you listen to these bands! There really isn’t anything ‘different’ about people though if they follow a trend that the mainstream record industry created out of nothing. Grunge wasn’t an actual subculture, it was pre-packaged rebellion. With all of that being said ‘grunge’ and goth never had anything to do with one another. So all of the people running around right now, and the clothing brands, calling themselves ‘grunge goth’ have no idea what they are on about. One is an actual subculture while the other is pre-packaged rebellion. By the time the internet became a ‘thing’ the term ‘alternative’ had lost its original meaning, so people started to call 80’s alternative bands ‘post-punk’ to fill the void that the loss of the tag ‘alternative’ created. Personally I find the term ‘post-punk’ to be kind of strange since punk music never went away, but that is a rant for another day!
So, what have we learned so far?
· The 80’s bands now termed post-punk used to be called alternative.
· These alternative(post-punk) bands did not all sound the same.
· The term goth wasn’t widely used everywhere until the very early 90’s.
· Not all 80’s alternative(post-punk) bands fit into the goth genre of music.
· Goth music evolved into its own subgenre, but is still considered alternative(post-punk).
Right now there are many newer bands labelling themselves post-punk who outright try to sound like Joy Division or The Cure. This comes from the belief that all 80’s alternative (post-punk) bands had a similar sound. As you have read above that assumption is false. Since a lot of younger people seem to think that Joy Division is goth they automatically give these similar sounding newer bands the goth tag. Make sure you are sitting down before you read the next sentence. Even when the term ‘goth’ started to be widely used in the early 90’s Joy Division was not considered a goth band. Yes, they made some really dark music; however, just because a band makes dark sounding music doesn’t mean they are automatically a goth band. Danzig, Metallica, Slayer, and a countless number of other metal and thrash bands make dark sounding music. Are these bands goth? Of course not. Joy Division inspired a whole lot of 80’s post-punk(alternative) bands, some of which would later be labelled goth. David Bowie also inspired a bunch of these bands. Is David Bowie’s music considered goth? That would be a no.
All goth music, be it from the 80’s or now, can be considered post-punk (alternative). However, not all post-punk(alternative) music, be it from the 80’s or now, can be considered goth. Since the term ‘post-punk’ has become a very trend oriented tag to use the line between the truth and false assumptions about its meaning have been blurred. When this modern post-punk trend slows down, which is inevitable, the most positive thing to come out of it will be that it inspired some bands to create some original sounding music. Sure, you have to dig a little but that is part of the fun of discovering new bands.