How many boxed sets are really worth $65? A Life Less Lived: The Gothic Box (to be released Tuesday, September 19, by Rhino Records) is this package is like the Nuggets of the goth rock world. There are three CDs, a DVD containing a dozen videos, and a book that includes track-by-track liner notes, humorous essays on clubbing and goth dance moves, and a discussion of the word "goth" by scene stars like Peter Murphy, Patricia Morrison (Sisters of Mercy, The Damned), AFI's Davey Havok, and Skinny Puppy's Ogre, whose definition includes "a mythological counterculture wishing for fangs, castles, and dripping candles, ultimately ending up on a dance floor swaying with eyes closed or staring at the walls of Hot Topic with eyes wide shut."
Bauhaus captured that sentiment in 1983, with the song "She's in Parties" (included in the boxed set), and the succinct lyric "She's acting her reaction." But whatever image disillusionment the goth scene's gone through, the music has survived as more than mere novelty, and this set gathers, as producer Liz Goodman notes, "the essential hit bands from a scene that arguably never had hits." In addition to Bauhaus, the set includes tracks by almost every other project that included members of Bauhaus, from Peter Murphy's solo career and band Dali's Car to tracks by Daniel Ash's Love and Rockets and Tones on Tail. Other essential bands included in the set are Joy Division, The Cure, The Sisters of Mercy, Christian Death, The Mission (U.K.), Siouxsie & the Banshees, Alien Sex Fiend, Fields of the Nephilim, Dead Can Dance, and Cocteau Twins.
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But the artists included on the compilation aren't limited to what'll pop right up on a Google search of the words "goth rock." Few people would consider The Cult a "goth" band anymore (if they ever did), but the boxed set follows the band from its beginnings as Southern Death Cult ("Fatman" is on disc one) to its period as Death Cult ("God's Zoo" is on disc two) and finally, The Cult ("Rain" is on disc three). There are also songs by bands most people would file under "punk" (The Damned, Misfits) or "industrial" (Skinny Puppy, Ministry). And then there are tracks by bands that rarely or never participate in goth comps, like Einstürzende Neubauten, Cranes, and Xmal Deutschland.
A Life Less Lived: The Gothic Box
The DVD contains videos for songs by The Cure, Bauhaus, The Jesus and Mary Chain, and Echo & the Bunnymen, among others. With its hourlong DVD, lush liner notes, and more than 53 songs released between 1978 and 1998, A Life Less Lived is more than just a boxed set it's a sensory odyssey through a scene that's still shape-shifting.