In The Flat Field review by Bauhaus

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  • Released: Oct 1, 1980
  • Sound: 10
  • Lyrics: 10
  • Overall Impression: 10
  • Reviewer's score: 10 Gem
  • Users' score: 9.3 (3 votes)
Bauhaus: In The Flat Field

Sound — 10
Peter Murphy is an outstanding vocalist and performer and this album showcases that alone in the vocals. I generally don't venture far into eighties music and on but I do have an aesthetic value for darker music, starting with older stuff, I can somewhat trace the roots of this type of new wave/post punk to music with darker roots. This album in its own sense captures so much darkness within a debut that I haven't seen much besides in Black Sabbath's self-titled debut "Black Sabbath" from 1970 or Jacula's "In Cauda Sepmer Stat Venunum" which I couldn't believe was from 1969 with those gothic themes, technically that would be the first goth LP and purely in that essence, but most people are not aware that this type of music has been waiting and building momentum since the late '60s.

I would say that the styles don't necessarily have to be heavy all the time to capture that dark feel in a theatrics sense of art rock, there are more mellow and calm sedative types of music like The Doors that dwells in a darker yet beautiful background with long intensified interludes of soloing and a chasm of spiraling drone jam. I don't want to go on so much about the roots as the main subject is this album but I would definitely go as far as saying that Jim Morrison and The Doors are really the key next to other obscure occult rock bands that based their lyrics and themes around darker subjects or dabbled in the taboo like Alice Cooper, Black Widow's older albums or Coven's infamous debut. The meandering longevity of Doors' tracks may be different but the principal of shock quality theatricals are in there for example their track "The End" which is about the oedipal subject of taboo with a disturbing description of a killer with a somehow calming and soothing setting and vibe to the whole track, just the jazzy psych raga drone calms you but still has a dark feel to it.

The darkness is what I'm trying to get to while going off topic, the whole aberration of all these genres and artists who would pioneer the gothic genre and other similar dark styles of music is key all the way back from the late '60s, I do believe the opening of Anton LaVey's first church of Satan was key in all of this, whether it was all for shock value or not it all played a role somehow. The whole arcane knowledge of these roots is uncommon but again these are important in forming music into albums like this later on from a whole two decades ago. This debut from Bauhaus is so incisive of a first album from a group that it is just impressive, it deserves to be extolled more than it really hasn't been all that much. Peter Murphy is able to carry out a wide command of vocals from a deep baritone dramatic voice in more mellow fashion to the outright screaming in such emotional pain and beauty, he makes screams sound so lovely and I haven't heard that since Jim Morrison or Iggy Pop and I really don't know of that many who can actually do it so gracefully and in consistent form.

Although this album was released in October 1980 it was recorded in 1979 and was delayed two months (originally to be released in September 1980) because they felt they couldn't record a version of "Double Dare" as well as they had on their BBC session, there were in turn some delays in obtaining the recording but it was fruitful. The band simply knew what they wanted and precisely how they were going to arrange this masterpiece debut. I think eventually throughout the course of all the bands that emerged after and during this album's era that nobody else will be able to ever do goth like Bauhaus did, especially on this album. They were the true forefathers of gothic rock, really setting the whole scene for the genre to emerge with the combination of abrasive punks sound and theatrical aspects of glam rock and a penchant for the dark and disturbing realities that people are afraid of. This album displays an intrepid force in rock, setting a new bar and going beyond the boundaries of the whole genre, breaking the stereotypes of what rock as a whole should be like, changing the outdated concepts.

Lyrics — 10
Most of the lyrics really set another deep reality of the true hidden pains and void of life, as the title itself puts it. The whole original track listing on the album showcases all the original and sinister edge captures, and all the added tracks on this cd reissue are all the better, the only one that doesn't really fit the category would be the single included "Telegram Sam" which is actually a cover of the T. Rex song so that explains why, and even then, the band still manages to turn it into another eclipse of a song in emotional tone. "Double Dare" is a raw heavy rocker of such immediate blackness that garners more perpetually chasmic realities of life, the angst and rebellion against authority is there imbedded within the bluntness; really making the listener question and desire to have a higher power and free will against the government and all forms of control and orders or societies that spread lies and keep you under submission. In that sense it definitely has more of a post-punk feel while capturing earlier contemporaries like Iggy Pop or Bowie, yet Murphey retains his own original style and of course amazing set of vocals.

"Dark Entries" was originally a single that preceded the album but this haunting melodious track opens the album, giving you another feel of more fantastic sense of a sot of ethereal universe of nightlife like the Jacks album "Vacant World" (1968). The next track then picks up the pace with more speedy frightening screaming melodies that sound so distant and yearning, haunted and tortured wailing from Daniel Ash's guitar in such a unique fashion never heard before. The eternally memorable chorus of the boredom of the norm, wanting to transcend this empty bliss of pure mundane principals of standard society and life, not conforming and breaking free from it with a crowd of people who also feel like something is wrong, because the standard social norm is just plain wrong, a deviant who gets tired of normal society, the album title track "In the Flat Field." There is a more noir style in a John Barry archetypal punk rock on "God in an Alcove" and that all out bare bones dirge of "Spy in the Cab." Those songs are both Bauhaus essentials undoubtedly. They projected a visceral appearance that they were all about and this is most certainly displayed in the track "Dive" with the no wave jam to add to measure.

The "St. Vitus Dance" has a sardonic tone to it with a more dark flavor once again, really in its meaning is a more disturbing track alluding to dancing as if one was inflicted with Sydenham's chorea: "Back in the good old days when dancing meant exploding/ the idea was simple for a decent overloading," along with David J's amazing filtered bassline along with "Stigmata Martyr" with its descending riffs and guitar scratches make a disconcerting bed for Murphy's screaming in Latin tongues. The whole theme and title song will always be unforgettable, "I get bored/ I do get bored/in the Flat Field." almost ushering a new generation of misfits to embrace.

Overall Impression — 10
The majority of "In the Flat Field" consists of twisted, glam-inspired post-punk raveups, seldom straightforward, but mostly quite accessible to an average listener of any kind of rock genre even such as myself. The original tracks will always be the real icing on the cake for me, especially "In the Flat Field," "Double Dare," and "Stigmata Martyr" in all the brilliant unique perspective of a somewhat outsider album. The whole bonus tracks on this reissue however is just as great of a blessing the way I see it and another edition has even more bonus tracks (that I will surely be buying!), the whole thing just adding to let the listener hear more of a range of meandering moody void of instrumentation drawn from a variety of inspirations.

Some insular critics have approached this album with such enmity but I think there is just really a lack of open mindedness here and too much envelopment in mainstream standards giving a false perception on how music has to sound in order to be favorable, which is just garbage, I think this album is fantastic and possibly one of the best album out there because of such unique distance and raw talent in musicianship, forging a truly innovative and cutting edge album that would help change the course of music. Their rendition of Rex's "Telegram Sam" is an essential, as is their cover of John Cale's "Rosegarden Funeral of Sores" and single "Terror Couple Kill Colonel" showing another earlier band (Velvet Underground) that was more avant-garde and paved the way in being a more blunt band in the sense that life isn't a meadow of flowers if so it would be a full field of opium to kill the pain of the realities of pure wickedness and despair instead of sugarcoating it. The sixties love generation definitely wasn't ready for The Velvet Underground and a few others of similar style and theme, though not many, there were a few outstanding notable bands like them.

Though there is a tampering with the sequence of tracks, featuring the single "Dark Entries" as the first track, the sequence is actually quite splendid, making the beginning a nice rocker as an introduction to a stellar album. There aren't many other bands at this time on the level of Bauhaus in the whole style and feel captured here except Joy Division, their debut released the year before in 1979, "Unknown Pleasures" is also another masterpiece and compares in the sheer theme of darkness in the moods and melodies along with lyrics and quite close instrumentals, though still different it seems they are quite closely related at the same time. If you have never listened to that album either I strongly recommend it as another great debut. Overall nobody else can really compare or match this, not even The Cure although they come close they seem to be more on a mainstream, but still were pretty gothic just a more mopey vocalist styling from Robert Smith but still another great contemporary, they just don't get as dark as Bauhaus. "In the Flat Field" is the rare album with the unique adrenaline-rush flow of a great live set.

3 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Great Review!
    Thank you so much, I didn't understand why such an innovative and unheard of debut like this has no comments or anybody commenting, what's with U-G?
    Another "outstanding" ...and complete review by Oliver White. Many thanks again for posting this....I know a lot of work went into it...