In the past twenty-five years, the word ‘goth’ has been assimilated and metamorphosed. In the lexicon of pop culture, the word has come to define things dour and dark; a catch-all for the whims, behaviors and fashions of the misunderstood.
In the 1990s, in a precursor to the kind of common language mangling and misguided memes that the internet would prove the harbinger of, ‘goth’ was first and foremost erroneously used to describe the fans of Marilyn Manson. Sure, the proverbial shoe partially fit, but the mere acts of wearing black, smoking clove cigarettes and lighting a few candles serves only the crudest definition of ‘goth.’
The word ‘goth’ is primarily meant to reflect an association with the Gothic era (or more commonly, the Baroque or Classical.) This comes not only with an incorporation of the fashion of the time, but also the perceived affect. Just as often as it refers to sublime external sadness, so to can goth imply a sense of whimsy or dandyism.
What does this have to do with The 69 Eyes as they release their tenth studio album? The 69 Eyes are a goth band, and their new album “X” is a true goth album. In the real meaning of the word. Not just in the band’s appearance but in their songs, which are essentially rock and roll ballads, telling stories not only with lyrics but with the tone and emotion of their music.
Not so different from goth benchmark band Bauhaus, The 69 Eyes wrap their compositions in a slightly tongue-in-cheek presentation that makes them feel bigger than they ought to be. The gang choruses and big guitars of “Love Runs Away” channels everything that made hair metal a success while still maintaining a darker edge and some punk sensibilities.
Like a goth Billy Idol, the secret to the band lies in arrangement and perception. The 69 Eyes aren’t afraid to go to the piano for added depth, or to lay a veneer on an otherwise ordinary piece that might not have one. “If You Love Me the Morning After” is otherwise a fairly plain rock song, but it somehow made more by the arrangement of a sorrowful guitar solo and some emphatic lyrical urgings.
This is the key to “X.” The album has an admirable sense of the moment that not only highlights the mood variance of the music, but elevates what might otherwise be plain songs into something memorable. One can’t help but marvel at “Borderline,” an almost Johnny Cash-esque acoustically tinted song that might, just might, be a response to the Madonna pop classic of the same name. It’s a brilliant moment on the album that most bands wouldn’t be able to make stand out.
Naturally, this is immediately followed by “I’m Ready,” arguably the album’s most energetic piece. This is where exceptions can be made. By no means is “I’m Ready” a goth song, but it works in the context of this very over the top goth album. It’s the kind of poppy, driven rock song that could easily be sung by Dolph Lundgren in a tuxedo while he breaks ice blocks and plays drums.
Make no mistake. There are times when the songs are not wonderfully adorned rock standards. There are times when the songs are simply rock standards. “Red” is one of those times, when the ‘Swedish Vampires’ can’t seem to pull another trick out of the bag and conjure something less cookie-cutter. These moments are few and far between, but they seem out of place on “X,” an album that oozes with creativity and high-gloss packaging.
Grab your corsets and great coats. The 69 Eyes are taking back ‘goth.’ Their flair for presentation and aesthetic, combined with Jyrki69’s deep-voiced vocal presence makes the band and “X” an easy companion for fans of Type O Negative. They have the right sound, the right voice and the right sense of the dramatic to make “X” an easy and enjoyable listen.