Waiting twenty-five years for a new Bauhaus album has been far too long, but from the unmistakable guitar noise of Daniel Ash and the funky fretless bass playing of David J. on the opening moments of the first track "Too Much 21st Century," Go Away White proves itself to be well worth the wait. Bauhaus reformed to play the Coachella Festival in 2005 and did a world tour shortly thereafter, including an appearance at the Sasquatch! festival in 2006. Nine of the ten tracks on the new LP were recorded in 2006, and one, "The Dog's A Vapor," was recorded in 1998 during their first reformation.
Committed to tape within a period of eighteen days, Go Away White was written mainly from improvisation in the studio. When the group began recording the album, they started with a blank slate. The result of this tabula rasa approach, with nothing written prior to entering the studio, is an impressive display of their creative prowess. During their brief stint from 1979-1983, Bauhaus gelled together so well that it is no wonder that subsequent projects (including Love and Rockets and Peter Murphy solo, which are still very good) have not lived up to the legacy that the original incarnation embodied. Peter Murphy always seemed to need the talent of his former backing band; likewise, Love and Rockets lost the definitive voice that belonged to Peter Murphy.
Go Away White, although it is a more contemporary sounding record than Bauhaus’ early output, has all the ingredients that made their first four studio albums so exceptional. The band sounds raw and vibrant, almost energized to the point of electrocution. Here we have four men who are nearly fifty years old and they have put together a galvanizing collection of songs that blows away countless modern post-punk imitators. Opener "Too Much 21st Century" gets the momentum going right from the start. Peter Murphy's reverb-laden vocals are the strongest they have been since Bauhaus split in 1983. It is heartbreaking that the band disintegrated before the release of this album, because this song would open up a concert so well.
"Undone" contains all the right elements, too. A slinky bass line and fabulous drumming and percussion from the underrated Kevin Haskins provide a compelling rhythm backdrop to Daniel Ash's searing, heavily effected guitar sounds. Throw in some strange atmospheric keyboards and Murphy's wailing croon and we have a classic Bauhaus song. "The Dog's A Vapor" was released on the soundtrack to Heavy Metal 2000 ten years ago, but fits right in on Go Away White as one of the best tracks. It carries with it a different, more experimental sound. Heartbeat-like drums and brooding keyboards akin to Dead Can Dance carry the first half of the track until some wonderful freak guitar noise comes screeching in over Haskins’ fantastic drumming. "Endless Summer of the Damned" is a fuzz guitar and bass fueled composition that was previewed during their 2006 tour, and it is great to hear how the studio version worked out. If any other band performed this song, it might risk sounding bland, but Bauhaus works their magical alchemy to makes this sublime piece shine.
Lyrically, Bauhaus' trademark theatrical elements and dark humor fill up the songs and give them life. "Saved" is a slow, almost ambient sounding track. Murphy howls out his acid velvet vocals while the band provides an eerie and unsettling soundtrack to support him. Go Away White is a beautiful record. It is one of the best new works that has come out in a long time, and will be recognized as a modern psychedelic classic. Even though it may fall a little short of their original albums, it still is a force of its own, and strikes a perfect balance between darkness and light. Once again, Bauhaus has proven that they are vital, both past and present. What fuels the band’s creative mastery may be it’s undoing as well, since the volatile forces that were harnessed in the studio seem unable to persist as the band has fractured into its separate parts once again.