For over 20 years, Depeche Mode has sold more records in Leipzig than in any other town in the world. While Dave Gahan would probably be first in line to declare that he’s no disciple of the school of Goth, it’s still curious that this band should earn a rather pronounced measure of fame in a mid-sized city in the east of Germany by exploiting what Melody Maker‘s journalist Simon Reynolds once called the standard musical fixtures of gothic rock, namely scything guitar patterns, high-pitched Joy Division bass lines that often usurp the melodic role and beats that are either hypnotically dirge-like or reminiscent of African rhythms.
When The Cure had their legendary Leipzig concert in 1990, the gates to the west had only opened a year earlier with the fall of the Iron Curtain. Before Germany’s reunification, the GDR‘s most popular crop of bands included Karat, City and The Puhdys. Hardly Goth material, more rather compromised rock music within the constraints of the rigid political system in place. During a time when east German parents gave their children names such as Ronny, Mandy, Cindy and Peggy, darker and at the time already slightly obsolete sounds of the New Wave era found a new home in the city of Leipzig.
It’s obviously hard to speculate and identify a single factor as to why Leipzig has become the mecca of gothic votaries, so let us just presume that the last major youth movement that originated in the 1970s and peaked in the mid 1980s still proved strong enough to capture the imagination of people who – for the first time ever – were given the freedom to do, think and also to listen to whatever they felt like.
And then there’s the lure of the strange, the foreign, the alien.
A radical pathos defying order by crossing the boundaries of what’s socially established and accepted while at the same time taking refuge in a new home; the home of the Gothic congregation. If you talk to those making the annual pilgrimage to Leipzig on a yearly basis, the feeling of belonging to a kind that’s so eerily beautiful and different will be one of the first reasons given. Must it not be fascinating to be part of a group – if only for a long Pentecost weekend – where everybody can express how to break boundaries in a highly unique and personalized way? It seems like quite an elevating concept to be able to display a very different identity from your regular Joe Doe and still be part of a group that’s congregating at the commonage of a single destination: the Leipzig meeting for Wave Gothic Music.
Which brings us back to the music! Yes, that’s the principal reason for this gathering of the dark folks in the fist place. And since we’re running out of pixel space and there’s a whole range of readily available material on Goth music online (think Wikipedia etc.), here’s a highly personal “top 3” of definitive landmark albums of the Wave Gothic sound: