Record Review: Bauhaus – The Sky’s Gone Out [part 2]

Bauhaus L-R: Peter Murphy, David , Daniel Ash, Kevin Haskins

[…continued from this post]

“In The Night” began with a yelp and a plodding, water-torture beat from Haskins drums. But that didn’t last for long. By the song’s midpoint the song got a violent transfusion of energy as it jolted into a triple time tempo and Murphy speed rapped a full, syncopated verse in no time at all before it ended with the compression-break squeal of feedback and a feral grunt.

“Slipping up and down his writhing side
His eyes began to ponder pride
Subjective pics of misled youth
Before him lies the dreadful truth
His wrist onto the razor sliiiiides” – “In The Night”

The hum machinery for almost a full minute heralded “Swing The Heatrache” before a steam train tattoo of drums lurched the song into a similar water torture beat as the previous number. This time, Daniel Ash’s guitar prowled like a cat through the pitch black night while Murphy began singing from a point of already being unhinged. Halfway through the song, Ash began the most disturbing variant on a Link-Wray-like “chicken guitar” rhythm punctuated by a riff that positively howled in pain. This time, the song’s agonies faded slowly as a glockenspiel had the final word.

Then the song that had initially caught my ear was next, but was there ever an album and single version that were further apart in every way than with the case of “Spirit?” Sure, it still featured multi-tracked acoustic guitars but this time it featured tribal tom-toms pummeling the song forward while Murphy’s lead vocals were a far cry from the cool crooning on display for those who had the 7″ single. His delivery on the album version was sheer stentorian bellowing, and the song’s nearly twice as long running time was taken up by over two minutes of chants of “We love our audience” coupled with a rise in volume and more howling guitars. Shocking!

As side two began, the mood retreated from the harrowing screed that was side one. “The Three Shadows [Part 1]” was a subtle dance of guitar and bass with only the scantest hint of percussion in a danse macabre that echoed the mood of “The Hollow Hills” from the previous album, “Mask.” At the song’s midpoint, some sepulchral chanting from Murphy joined in to complete the sense of unease without any harsh stridency at all. Part Two of “The Three Shadows” sounded as if it owed a lot to the previous year’s “Waltzinblack” from The Stranglers “The Gospel According To The Meninblack.” But while The Stranglers were content to let the ambiguity of high pitched giggles unnerve the listener, Murphy employed bloating and pus-filled lyrical imagery. It all sounded so solemn, that the lyrics worked against the mood due to their flowery gutter pretension. Part Three was something else entirely. Over a clockwork beat laden with piano and even violin [?] Murphy found better lyrical footing with the same sense of righteous outrage he had employed on their debut album’s “Double Dare” albeit in a more tuneful package.

David J employed a double bass on “All We Ever Wanted Was Everything” while Murphy dialed down his emoting to an intimate level for the less florid imagery on offer this time. The distant guitar of Ash joined after the first verse, and the song took on a slight, anthemic [for Bauhaus] quality. The song’s coda of “oh to be the cream,” now belted by Murphy, was the height of conventional beauty to be found on “The Sky’s Gone Out.”

The final song I recognized from art school. The “exquisite corpse” was a Dada exercise where on artist began a drawing, then folded the paper and handed it to the next artist, who drew something, then folded it, and handed it off, etc. The final act was to unfold the paper and view the subconscious gestalt. So naturally, each member of Bauhaus performed a fragment of a song here, with the final act being the mixing of the disparate approaches together. The only uniting theme was the use of backwards rhythm tracks throughout the J/Murphy/Ash segments.

The coughing that marked the transition between the Peter Murphy segment and the Daniel Ash segment was startling to me in 1982, but now I am fully aware that a release the year prior, also on Beggar’s Banquet Records, also featured this act. Of course, I’m talking about the Associates single “Q Quarters.” Bauhaus were obviously moved by this defiant artistic act. Since Kevin Haskins was the drummer, his final segment was a bit of instrumental dub reggae with the only vocal component being engineer Derek Tompkins snoring. The final mix segment almost worked! It featured only the phrase “the sky’s gone out” repeated from Ash until the cold ending.

Well, not quite a cold ending. The LP version ended with what sounded like a soundbite from a film. An elderly man said:

“My baby. How big you’ll be in a very little while. You’ll be going to school and you won’t want your daddy then, will you darling? Oh, I wish you could be my baby forever. I wonder what the future holds?”

…Or darn close to it. I’ve not heard the LP in over 30 years. Does anyone reading this know the source of this material? If so, comment, please. I’ve certainly not run across it in my travels. This is missing from the 1988 CD that has been my copy of the album since then, so I don’t know if it was excised due to copyright issues, sloppiness of mastering, or æsthetic reasons, since it soon shifted to bonus tracks on CD .

This was a harsh, bracing album like few others, but I felt that I had rolled with its changes by the ending of the first listen. I quickly became inured to its pretentious stridency since when presented with a pit this black, what’s there to do but to dive in? In the climate of 1982, I had heard the phrase “art metal” and that was my first thought, but really, that was only applicable to side one. Side two was less shrill, but no less pretentious for it. What else should I have expected by a band named after the art movement I had been trained in? I quickly worked by way backward to that incredible first album and then to “Mask,” he predecessor of this album. For one reason or another, I never bought “Burning From The Inside” until it was released on CD. I think the albums get weaker with each trip to the well, when listened to in sequence, but it speaks for their artistic success that even the fourth album was still rather good, and nothing to be ashamed of.

– 30 –

About postpunkmonk

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11 Responses to Record Review: Bauhaus – The Sky’s Gone Out [part 2]

  1. Gavin says:

    I have always wondered where that old mans dialogue came from too-at school my friend Chris and I used to quote it to bewildered classmates often!
    Wonderful album,the first I heard from Bauhaus,though I love all of their work.Burning from the Inside is probably the most played by me.


  2. Lol says:

    (reading from Bertolt Brecht’s first play, Baal): “My baby, how big you’ll be in a very little while. You’ll be going to school and you won’t want your daddy then, will you darling? Oh, I wish you could be my baby all the time. I wonder what the future holds…?”


  3. Gavin says:

    How amazing!
    Thanks Lol.Shame on me for not having read the play.


    • postpunkmonk says:

      Gavin – It makes perfect sense if you think about it for more than 10 seconds. I wonder if they recorded the audio from the 1981 BBC production with Bowie or if they hired an actor to perform that line? Now I know why it was cut for the CD. Less money to pay to the Brecht Trust.


  4. Gavin says:

    I remember reading Sartre’s “Roads to Freedom” trilogy and finding that tons of lines had been recycled for use by La Murphy on the “Burning from the Inside” album and maybe “Syks gone out” too-my memory fails me.
    Creative plagiarism rocks.


  5. Paul says:

    also, it’s Derek Tompkins himself reading the segment from Brecht’s Baal :

    “I have always wondered about that extra bit at the end of the album ‘The Sky’s Gone Out’ It starts off with something like ‘my’ll be going to school..I wish you could be my baby all the time…I wonder what the future holds’ and sounds like an elderly English gentleman talking to his child/grandchild? WHAT is the story behind that?

    That is Derek Tompkins who was our co-producer. It was apparently a spoken piece on a record from his childhood, which at the time of recording the album, he could not get out of his head. So to exorcise it, he felt it might work to go and record it to tape, little did he know that as he was doing it we were conspiring to put it on the end of the record.”


    • postpunkmonk says:

      Paul – Welcome to the comments! That is a fascinating story throwing the whole “Baal” slash “The Sky’s Gone Out” saga into sharp relief. I must say Derek Tompkins’ delivery was slightly unnerving.


  6. Pingback: Turn the Future On, Pt. 2 – American Magic and Dread

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