Bauhaus – Crackle – Review


Crackle (Beggars Banquet)
by Nik Rainey

The Adventures of Nik Rainey

Semi-Hemi-Demi-Professional Critic
Episode Two: “Use Your Allusion”

Intro: Next Exposition, Please

I’ve been hanging in a state of languid flux for weeks now – what the Catholics used to call “Limbo” before they closed it down, claiming all the bending backwards was too hard on their backs. Whatever sense of purpose being a music critic once held for me was lost, elusive, and as hard to grasp as a greased supermodel. All my efforts to expunge the worthless and overwrought parts of my syntactical psyche had merely left me hoarse, confused, and with paper cuts the size of the Marinas Trench from trying to speed-read my thesaurus in search of the fabled Lost Synonym for “Throbbing Bassline.” My pseudonym wasn’t much help – he pretended to indulge my misdirected soul-searchings for a few pages, then dropped me like a hot potato salad in the lobby of who he claimed was one of the world’s foremost authorities on critics’ block before ellipsing into oblivion in the back seat of a newspaper taxi with the crossword puzzle already done, incorrectly and in indelible ink, no less. Truthfully, that’s not exactly what happened, but I don’t care and I haven’t seen Jimmy crack corn in some time, although his half-brother Marty has been spotted around town breaking peas. Oh, Christ… get me out of this intro, somebody…

I exhaled painfully if somewhat typically: sounds like a sigh, feels like a death rattle. “You’re really dredging up some hurtful stuff, aren’t you? I thought I had safely moved that skeleton to the back of my closet next to my rainbow Mork suspenders, at least in the two issues since I last pontificated about them at length… but fine, you’re the sadist.”


“There’s a distinction?… All right, then. Bauhaus always appealed to me, as I think they did to those of us who carefully cultivated our depression to keep us skinny, because they were a clean wallow in the sea of morbidity, a meticulously-choreographed soft-focus misery. Remember The Hunger? That Chanel No. 5 ad masquerading as a vampire flick they appeared in the first five minutes of? No more perfect metaphor exists for the Bauhaus experience – a gauzy, Tony Scott-directed journey through a netherworld full of vampires who don’t bite because it’d stain their teeth and they’d have to reaccessorize.”

“But my records show you have every record they’ve ever released.”

“True, and it’s plagued me for years. I could have written it off as a childish affectation and thrown it over for the works of those who actually had the gumption to off themselves and thus moot the possibility of a solo career or a reunion tour, start reading The Trial again where I left off twelve years ago and admit that the only thing truly Kafkaesque about these gloom-waifs is Peter Murphy’s cheekbones, resist the dark pull of digitally-remastered versions of songs I already have in four or five other configurations… and yet I cannot. I am compelled to return to their well-furnished lair, supping on the decorous decadence, again and again and again.”

“And why do you think that is?”

I lapsed into a pregnant pause, which abruptly miscarried: “Because, far from being unduly bleak and forbidding, Bauhaus was inclusive, their cold blood a warm sacrament for the scrabbling weevils crawling over the teenage underbelly. Forget roots, credibility, authenticity – how much phonier can you get than second-hand Bowie ? – Bauhaus reveled in their ersatzity and beckoned you to join them. ‘Come with us,’ they said, ‘we may wear the po-faced masks of the aloof artiste, but it’s just because goony grins don’t look as good in moody black-and-white sleeve photos. You could write lyrics as overreaching and inane as ours, you could play three notes on a single bass string for nine-plus minutes, you can walk around in blind bluesman shades to hide those beady little eyes of yours, you could surely think of better ways to show off your light-hearted side than dressing up in papier-maché bee costumes… it’s all within your reach, every last insecure, posing one of you.’ When they sing ‘We love our audience’ in ‘Spirit,’ it’s a ‘Gabba Gabba Hey’ to every suburban lumpenprole who looks more like Dee Dee Myers than Dee Dee Ramone in a leather jacket… and it kills me that it still hits me that way! Where is the sophistication that all those Table of the Elements and Atavistic releases were supposed to bestow upon me? Why must I seek just intonation and microtonalism only to find myself bopping to the post-punk equivalent of ‘The Monster Mash’? Oh, depth, where is thy sting?

Dr. MacAqueaque daubed at his forehead with a damp case history. “Good lord,” he whispered. “I can only thank whatever deity’s left after the recent downsizing that there wasn’t a Dead or Alive record in the stack somewhere. I’m not licensed to deal with that level of trauma. Let us move a few years ahead and a couple of steps to the side, to that musical soft shoulder known as the late eighties and early nineties. You look like you could use the rest.”

“And I’ll get it, too. Those years were like the federally-imposed period of narcolepsy required to soften us up for the next sneak attack. If ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ was the ‘I Wanna Hold Your Hand’ of its day, then there were a hell of a lot of Frankie Avalons laying in Nirvana’s wake. I can still hear it, that nauseating mantra I’d hear at social events and mass drug binges, that call of the calculatedly disenfranchised misfit that still sometimes screeches out at me in the middle of the night…”

“And that would be…?”

‘The Cuuuurrre! You got any Cuuuuurrrrre? Play something by the Keeeeee-uuuuurrrrrre!’ I’m so grateful Kurt came along and hosed the bodies off that sidewalk, lemme tell ya. Hope St. Peter weighted that appropriately and let him slide on the whole suicide thing. But on balance, I can understand why the kids so desperately grasped at Robert Smith’s love handles. What passed for musical milestones from ’87 to ’91 or so looked more like premature grave markers. Forget the F. Scotts and Mrs. Parkers of old – ours was the true Lost Generation, coming of age in an era with very few defining moments. Don’t hear people ask ‘Where were you when the first Jesus Jones album was released?’ too often, do ya? Not too many black armbands and silent vigils in the park when Gene Loves Jezebel packed it in. Nobody trampled to death when the kids rushed the stage to be nearer Inspiral Carpets. So what’s this vaguely-groovy-in-a-bandy-legged-Limey-fashion analgesic-rock you’ve got in the background?”