Sees its first life on vinyl in more than 30 years.
Still in its musical infancy, Bauhaus entered the studio in early 1979 to track a batch of experimental songs that walked the line between post-punk and goth. The resulting album, The Bela Session, now sees its first life on vinyl in more than 30 years.
The slender collection makes the argument that less is more: A spooky, nine-minute rendition of the outfit’s gold standard composition, “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” leads the charge, replete with string scrapes, LSD-like musical free associations and a sense of the experimental that such contemporaries as The Cure would deliver quite frequently in the era. Elements of dub and reggae mutate into something more sinister with flickers of light coming in between drummer Kevin Haskins’ beats and Daniel Ash’s primitive but sophisticated guitar work.
The length alone suggests something progressive along the lines of Yes and Genesis, but this music never aims for the same highs. Instead, it roots itself closer to the ground (and sometimes underneath it), providing listeners with an unexpected catharsis as the tune disappears into the midnight hour, a ghost search for a soul to haunt, a place to call its own.
It’s not exactly dour, but the group chose wisely to place its “hit single” material in sharp relief to the epic. Clocking in at just over two minutes, “Some Faces” is everything its predecessor isn’t: Tightly wound with straightforward rhythm lines and a vocal hook that’s impossible to forget. It’s not exactly Police-level commercial, but it rises nicely to the occasion, giving the audience something to hang their hat on and a musical place to call home.
Along with “Bit My Hip,” it recalls the avant fun of early B-52’s material: You’re never exactly sure what’s going on, you just know that you like it and that it sends the soul soaring while maintaining a decidedly cool and removed attitude that lurks behind a pair of dark specs and a heavy leather jacket. Meanwhile, the messed up dub of “Harry” marks the music more of its time, a stamp of where the collective musical mind of England was at the end of the decade that broke punk and birthed the disparate streams that would come to replace it.
Perhaps because of its ambition, “Harry” doesn’t tingle the spine with the same intensity of its companions but it’s still a fun romp that provides a flash of future brilliance. There’s a naivete evident there that requires no apology from Bauhaus’ future self. It’s the sound of some lads finding themselves and finding the music.
Closer “Boys” provides more of the same and though its experimental spirit is admirably it doesn’t sing with the same brilliance as the company it keeps. Nonetheless, stalwarts will rejoice in the arrival of this collection while newcomers who know the full narrative will doubtless find plenty to enjoy beyond “Bela Lugosi’s Dead.”