Goth means a lot of things these days, and can encompass everything from emo to EDM to straight-up pop to just someone who only wears black. But "classic goth," as a genre, mostly refers to the dark strain of post-punk from the first half of the 1980s, pretty much starting with Bauhaus' debut single, "Bela Lugosi's Dead" and ending around 1985 when London's Batcave, run by Ollie Wilson of Specimen and regarded as the epicenter of the UK scene, closed its doors for good.
There were of course bands before that who dabbled in the dark arts (The Damned, The Cramps, Alice Cooper) and many of the artists from the scene achieved even bigger fame (The Cure, Siouxsie, Bauhaus' Peter Murphy), not to mention groups from the rest of the world, but that fertile half decade gave the world so much of the music we associate with goth today. The genre has had its resurgences and subsects of fans ever since -- from Nine Inch Nails and Marilyn Manson in the '90s to Interpol, The Horrors, My Chemical Romance and more in the '00s, to more recent artists like Chelsea Wolfe, Algiers, and Savages -- but most of it you can sonically trace back to the '80s.
With that in mind, here's our list of 13 essential albums from the classic goth era. We kept things mainly to the 1980-1985 period, with a few notable exceptions. It was tough keeping things to a baker's dozen, but it seemed like the right number. Light a candle and check out our list below.
CLASSIC GOTH'S 13 GREATEST HITS (ALBUMS)
13. Red Lorry Yellow Lorry – Talk About the Weather (1985, Red Rhino)
Like Sisters of Mercy, Red Lorry Yellow Lorry hailed from Leeds, England and, early on, cribbed from Joy Division, with singer/guitarist Chris Reed sounding eerily like Ian Curtis at times -- though more often there was more ferocity than fragility in his growl. (Their records may beg otherwise but, for what it's worth, the band say their primary influence was MC5.) By the time of their 1985 debut album, Talk About the Weather, the Lorries had figured out their own variant within the genre and had become good songwriters, too. A lot of RLYL's best-ever songs are here, including the anthemic, Wire-eque "Hand on Heart" and the driving, danceable single "Hollow Eyes." With a mix of rhythm boxes and live drums, the scrappy mid-'80s indie production on Talk About the Weather has held up remarkably well, with songs like the punky, rigid "Happy," and the strutting title track which sounds rough, tough and dour, without ever laying it on too thick.