Depressive Post-Punk

Written by: jupitreas
Published: 08.08.2008
Every serious music listener has wide-ranging musical tastes, tries to have a go at many genres and generally enjoys music for its own worth, instead of relying on superficial distinctions. With this said, I think we all have that one specific mood in music that means the most to us - the underlying current that satisfies us the most as consumers of the beautiful art form that is music. For some, it might be the unadulterated anger present in hardcore and thrash music; others might love to envelop themselves in the depravity of gangsta rap. Others still might just want to have the grey cells in their cranium turned into pudding by the booming bass of dub or their thirst for juvenile occultism satisfied by raw black metal. To each his own. There is nothing wrong with identifying that which means the most to you in music, provided that you don't get addicted to it and listen to nothing else. With all this said, I'd like to use this blog entry as an opportunity to write a little bit about what the number one thing that I am looking for in music is - the dark, forlorn and cold atmosphere of depressive post-punk. I'm writing this blog in the hopes that some of you, who might have similar or relatable tastes might speak up and share your views on the subject.

A little history is in order. After the Sex Pistols, Clash, The Damned and many other bands stormed through the mainstream with their punk rock movement, the face of rock has changed significantly. Post-punk was born. Insipired by the non-conformist attitude of punk, but not necessarily by its rudimentary musical direction, post-punk bands brought a much needed injection of innovation and experimentation into rock music. Post-punk had numerous sub-genres: the more pop-oriented new wave, new romantic and synth-pop bands (The Cure, Depeche Mode, Duran Duran), gothic rock (Bauhaus, The Sisters Of Mercy, The Cult) and even bands that later would be called industrial metal (Killing Joke, Big Black, Head Of David). Amidst all of these stylistically varying bands was another small movement that I would like to call depressive post-punk. Bands like The Comsat Angels, The Sound, The Chameleons UK, Joy Division, Low Life, Crispy Ambulance, early Echo & The Bunnymen and others all shared an incredible, almost tangible bleakness about them that I personally find very attractive.

Blame it on the Cold War or on the failure of punk ideals in making a serious dent in the sensibilities of the mainstream music listener - either way - these guys were seriously depressed. Besides using claustrophobic arrangements, cold, distorted guitar lines and industrial elements, the most noticeable thing about the general mood of this music was the absolute lack of any kind of optimism in any shape or form. This is music for people who have already made peace with the insignificance of life. No need to whine about anything - we give up.

Here are five must-hear releases of this style:
Echo and The Bunnymen - Heaven Up Here,
The Comsat Angels - Sleep No More,
The Chameleons - Script Of The Bridge,
The Sound - From The Lion's Mouth and
Low Life - Diminuendo.
Sleep No More, in particular, is perhaps the bleakest album ever written, while the Chameleons might appeal to metal fans the most due to their very innovative heavy two guitar arrangements.

Depressive post-punk has been influential. One can hear echoes of it in doom metal, industrial metal and even forms of pop and folk. Paradise Lost, Kill The Thrill, Katatonia, Klimt1918 and other bands are good examples. Sadly, the current post-punk revival also brings us some absolutely tepid followers of the style - Interpol, Protokoll and even Franz Ferdinand. Luckily, nobody is forcing me to listen to the revival and I just like to stick to the immensely powerful original purveyors of the style. If you want music that is truly depressive, a true expression of dread and giving up - look no further. If any of you share my love for this style of music or have anything else to add or comment about, please let me know. I'll also be happy to share recommendations.

I'll finish this post with some links.
Comsat Angels - Independence Day
The Chameleons - Don't Fall
Echo & The Bunnymen - Over The Wall


 



Written on 08.08.2008 by
jupitreas
With Metal Storm since 2002, jupitreas has been subjecting the masses to his reviews for quite a while now. Privately not actually an asshole, he lives in Warsaw, Poland, where he runs his small graphic and web design business.
More articles by jupitreas ››




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BitterCOld - 09.08.2008 at 02:18  
i'll have to check out Echo and the Bunnymen again. used to have a couple cd's in the early 90's - a best of comp, the s/t, and Ian McCullough's "Candleland" (i think) - but they didn't quite resonate with me like some other bands you mentioned. (Joy Division, The Cure).
Lucas - 09.08.2008 at 13:03  
Joy Division is a brilliant band, cannot believe I still don't own their albums. The only experience I've had with The Cure was their concert a couple of months ago, and that was great as well.

About the Comsat Angels, I do remember we discussed them and I have heard their Sleep No More album. It didn't quite hook me back then, though. But since bleakness is my middle name, I'll give them and Echo & The Bunnymen a shot again.
Hamird - 09.08.2008 at 13:26  
Written by Lucas on 09.08.2008 at 13:03

Joy Division is a brilliant band, cannot believe I still don't own their albums.


Sure, Joy Division is the phenom.. Ian Curtis was so smart. I have their "Unknown Pleasures" and thats amazing. When you get it you'll enjoy it
jupitreas - 09.08.2008 at 18:35  
Joy Division is really overrated... Not a bad band, mind you, but seriously overhyped, mainly due to the suicide of Ian Curtis. Adrian Borland from The Sound also commited suicide but nobody seems to give a shit about him.

Strange.

Anyway, if you guys think Joy Division is the shit, I highly recommend listening to those 5 albums I mentioned in the blog. You might find that they do the job better than JD ever could.
BitterCOld - 12.08.2008 at 01:59  
regarding Joy Division, overrated, underrated, unrated, rated NC-17... makes no difference to me, really. I really don't care how other people value them, i just found i connected better with them on earlier listens than i did Echo and the Bunnymen or a lot of other bands of similar ilk that my friends were listening to a the time.

of course, for what it's worth, i'm more drawn towards their faster paced songs - "Ice Age", "Something Must Break" - because of the urgency in Ian's voice coupled with the driving bass lines and Sumner's guitar lines - really caught my ear.

the fact Ian killed himself doesn't really resonate with me - it happened long before i had heard of them, and he's not the only musician to off himself (as you pointed out).

i'll re-visit Echo and the Bunnymen and see if i can find a used copy of "Songs to Learn and Sing" or "Heaven Up Here."
Collin - 21.08.2008 at 11:06  
I don't think I had ever heard of the "depressive post-punk" (or even just the "post-punk") name for a genre before

The only band you mentioned in this depressive thing that I know is Joy Division, and I've always "enjoyed" the bleak hopelessness in their music. That means I'm going to try those other bands you mentioned asap, if you say they're even better.
Marcel Hubregtse - 21.08.2008 at 11:28  
Strange... I must be food for a psychiatrist. But I find nothing depressive at all about the music of any of the bands mentioned in the blog. Btw, Joy Division I also totally don't find depressive at all. All that music just sounds happy go lucky to my ears.
jupitreas - 21.08.2008 at 16:43  
Written by Marcel Hubregtse on 21.08.2008 at 11:28

Strange... I must be food for a psychiatrist. But I find nothing depressive at all about the music of any of the bands mentioned in the blog. Btw, Joy Division I also totally don't find depressive at all. All that music just sounds happy go lucky to my ears.


There is a difference, I think, beteeen how a band makes us feel and the way that we can generally describe their sound. Clearly, since this happens to be one of my favorite styles of music, it would be wrong for me to claim that it is depressive for me; however, the mood in the music still is clearly of resignment, failure etc. My own character is such that music of this nature makes me feel good about myself, which is what might be happening to you as well...
Marcel Hubregtse - 21.08.2008 at 16:46  
Written by jupitreas on 21.08.2008 at 16:43

Written by Marcel Hubregtse on 21.08.2008 at 11:28

Strange... I must be food for a psychiatrist. But I find nothing depressive at all about the music of any of the bands mentioned in the blog. Btw, Joy Division I also totally don't find depressive at all. All that music just sounds happy go lucky to my ears.


There is a difference, I think, beteeen how a band makes us feel and the way that we can generally describe their sound. Clearly, since this happens to be one of my favorite styles of music, it would be wrong for me to claim that it is depressive for me; however, the mood in the music still is clearly of resignment, failure etc. My own character is such that music of this nature makes me feel good about myself, which is what might be happening to you as well...


I wasn't talking about how it made me feel but just about how the music comes across to me. And I generally perceive the mood that comes across as uplifting and quite vibrant as well. The music these sorts of bands play leaves me totally neutral cause I can't stand such music at all.
Stuart - 25.08.2008 at 19:15  
I think the goth bands which were spawned from punk will always be the most enjoyable to my ears. The sisters of mercy, the Mission etc... I really love those bands, in fact I'd say Sisters was one of my top 10 bands. Whilst I get the whole idea of the bands you are referring to and some of lyrics are pretty good, for some reason they just don't do anything for me whatsoever, I think maybe if I'd grown up in some bleak Northern English city maybe it would appeal more... the music can sound quite uplifting, although it can also sound pretty sombre, its neither here nor there, in every possible sense, a bit bland really.

BTW you can't really put Duran Duran and Depeche Mode in the same sentence, its such a disservice to DM!
jupitreas - 25.08.2008 at 19:22  
Written by Stuart on 25.08.2008 at 19:15

BTW you can't really put Duran Duran and Depeche Mode in the same sentence, its such a disservice to DM!


Or to DM, depending on your point of view

As for some post-punk being uplifting - yes, obviously a lot of it is... Its a fairly broad genre after all. This is why I mention specific bands that to my ears compose 'depressive' post-punk and specialize in bleakness and the kind of mood one gets from failing or resigning.
Stuart - 25.08.2008 at 20:47  
Written by jupitreas on 25.08.2008 at 19:22

Written by Stuart on 25.08.2008 at 19:15

BTW you can't really put Duran Duran and Depeche Mode in the same sentence, its such a disservice to DM!


Or to DM, depending on your point of view

As for some post-punk being uplifting - yes, obviously a lot of it is... Its a fairly broad genre after all. This is why I mention specific bands that to my ears compose 'depressive' post-punk and specialize in bleakness and the kind of mood one gets from failing or resigning.

There is absolutely no doubt about it.... Duran Duran are horrendous crap (Yes I am being prejudice here, I just really, really hate it).... and Depeche Mode have made some pretty decent music.

I know what your saying and you're correct to a certain degree, but their music is not all depressing some songs are a little uplifting, basically I wouldn't say their music was ever intended to sound bleak, some of it just came out that way and some of it didn't, i don't think you could call it specializing in that bleakness at all, they just wrote about their lives and some of it was good and some of it was bad. Although I wouldn't go as far as Marcel to say that Joy Division is a generally uplifting and vibrant band...
jupitreas - 25.08.2008 at 21:44  
Written by Stuart on 25.08.2008 at 20:47

I know what your saying and you're correct to a certain degree, but their music is not all depressing some songs are a little uplifting, basically I wouldn't say their music was ever intended to sound bleak, some of it just came out that way and some of it didn't, i don't think you could call it specializing in that bleakness at all, they just wrote about their lives and some of it was good and some of it was bad. Although I wouldn't go as far as Marcel to say that Joy Division is a generally uplifting and vibrant band...


Good point. Although regardless of how you see it, the results are what counts.
Lokomotiv - 29.08.2008 at 01:00  
Hey, the fist paragraph insults me!

Interesting article... it made me feel interested by a style I had never known anything about... I was a fan of Joy Division earlier but somehown they grew old in me just like most punk-related bands I had listened to. But I had never heard any of the bands recommened in the article so I will check them soon... but not now... I'm in the mood for some Morbid Angel or shit like that.
!J.O.O.E.! - 29.08.2008 at 11:37  
Heh this kind of music is very much my girlfriend's taste, Echo and the Bunnymen in particular whom I also quite enjoy. Going back to Joy Division, though I don't particularly enjoy them I do agree that some of their stuff is incredibly bleak. I think a lot of people might have been saturated by the metal concept of downbeat depressing music but Joy Division are very much a different kind in my eyes.
Fat & Sassy! - 08.09.2008 at 08:56  
I am a HUGE fan of Joy Division. I've never heard of a couple of these bands. I will definitely check them out. For people who are interested in the history of this kind of music, I HIGHLY recommend the movie 24 Hour Party People.
John Barleycorn - 07.10.2008 at 01:43  
Hell, Comsat Angels is fantastic. I'm speaking mostly about the album "Sleep No More" (looking at my last.fm stats, the number of plays during last 6 months should be a record), but the first one is cool also. The sound is quite unique, at least for my ears. Thanks, I doubt I would have found them without this thread.

I also tried out The Sound and The Chameleons. I didn't really get excited about the latter, although they are definitely a high-qualiy band. The Sound, on the other hand, left much greater impression, especially few of their live videos I found from youtube
Super_Greg - 07.10.2009 at 09:28  
For a while Joy Division and The Cure were two of my favorite bands. I never got too into post-punk, but all this gloomy Western Pennsylvanian weather is making me crave some Bauhaus and Echo

This blog has been very helpful to me! I have been interested in other bands like Joy Division, but couldn't find anything similar.

Thanks jupitreas
Uirapuru - 03.10.2010 at 21:13  
Does Dexys Midnight Runners include in this description? I found them amazing

Great article as usual, I still have to check out on The Comsat Angels.
jupitreas - 04.10.2010 at 00:01  
Written by Uirapuru on 03.10.2010 at 21:13

Does Dexys Midnight Runners include in this description? I found them amazing


I don't really find them to be depressive.
Uirapuru - 04.10.2010 at 02:10  
Written by jupitreas on 04.10.2010 at 00:01

Written by Uirapuru on 03.10.2010 at 21:13

Does Dexys Midnight Runners include in this description? I found them amazing


I don't really find them to be depressive.


Yeah, mostly not. But Searching For The Young Soul Rebels always gave me that impression, has good amount of depressive tracks.
RobertNowhere - 04.10.2010 at 18:05  
Rip It Up And Start Again by Simon Reynolds is a fantastic book on the topic of post-punk in general, if anybody's interest was piqued by this article...
xVovax - 07.03.2012 at 11:48  
Listen to Metro Luminal - Coca Cola album,its also a depressive post punk

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