In honor of this lovely weather we’re having here in Los Angeles, I’m going to blog about the so-called Raincoat scene. Before Goth — for that matter, before New Grave, Dark Wave, Cold Wave or any of those other overly specific scenes (that I will dutifully write about in time), the British music press took to lumping together a bunch of bands and their fans and calling them “raincoats.” Why? Because since their invention in the 1850s, nothing has silently and eloquently conveyed, “I’m dark, brooding and Romantic” like slouching in a trench coat. OK, it could also convey, “I’m stealing porn and not wearing clothes underneath.” That’s a different sort of Raincoat Brigade.
The earliest usage of “raincoat” in this sense that I’ve found is in an edition of NME. “1982 was also a year of recession in the U.K. A broken economy, you could argue, enabled both genres to flourish: sleek synth-pop helped people transcend national gloom, glowering raincoat-rock authorised them to wallow in it.”
The color of raincoats is gray, not black. The chronicler has to be Anton Corbijn. The god of raincoats is Ian Curtis… or maybe Heathcliff (not the cat). I thought no band ever described themselves as raincoats but The Cure‘s Robert Smith proved me wrong. “We were never Goths. When we started we were Raincoats — although now I’ve forgotten exactly what that meant.” What did it mean, beyond an intersection of meteorology and fashion? What else makes something “Raincoat Rock?” I’d say a bit of brittle, ringing and vaguely psychedelic guitar; some icy synths (optional), some cavernous production (ideally courtesy of Martin Hannett), and a post-punk sensibility. Perform in a minor key and serve in a drizzle-soaked, abandoned factory or a wind and rainswept seaside cliff.
A Certain Ratio – Knife Slits Water (video available but audio only)
Big Country – Look Away
The Chameleons – Monkeyland
The Comsat Angels – The Cutting Edge
Crispy Ambulance – The Presence
The Cure – Charlotte Sometimes
Eyeless in Gaza – Veil Like Calm
Joy Division – Shadowplay
The Mission – Wasteland
The Names – Nightshift
New Order – Everything’s Gone Green
The Ocean Blue – Between Something and Nothing
The Psychedelic Furs – Sister Europe
Sad Lovers and Giants – Seven Kinds of Sin (audio only)
Section 25 – New Horizon
Simple Minds – Thirty Frames a Second
The Sound – I Can’t Escape Myself
Stockholm Monsters – Soft Babies
Teardrop Explodes – Reward
U2 – Two Hearts Beat As One
The Waterboys – December
Minutes of tireless internet research have found a surprising number of bands who’ve been labeled “Raincoat” on at least one occasion, including A Certain Ratio, Big Country, The Chameleons, The Comsat Angels, Crispy Ambulance, The Cure, Echo & the Bunnymen, Eyeless in Gaza, Joy Division, The Mission, The Names, New Order, The Ocean Blue, The Psychedelic Furs, Sad Lovers and Giants, Section 25, Simple Minds, The Stockholm Monsters, Teardrop Explodes, U2, The Waterboys, and I’m sure others. Find me more and cite your sources!
Newer bands like British Sea Power, Interpol, East Ash, Marion, Mellow Drunk, The White Lies, Ray, Editors, SISU, The Storm Society and Red Light Company clearly sonically referencing this hazily scene coupled with this winter weather in October means the time for a Raincoat revival amongst the kids is now!
Check out the Pandora station — Famous Grey Raincoat or the Spotify playlist, Raincoat.
Eric Brightwell is an adventurer, writer, rambler, explorer, cartographer, and guerrilla gardener who is always seeking writing, speaking, traveling, and art opportunities — or salaried work. He is not interested in writing advertorials, clickbait, listicles, or other 21st century variations of spam. Brightwell’s written work has appeared in Amoeblog, diaCRITICS, and KCET Departures. His work has been featured by the American Institute of Architects, the Architecture & Design Museum, the Craft & Folk Art Museum, Form Follows Function, Los Angeles County Store, Skid Row Housing Trust, and 1650 Gallery. Brightwell has been featured in the Los Angeles Times, Huffington Post, Los Angeles Magazine, LAist, Eastsider LA, Boing Boing, Los Angeles, I’m Yours, and on Notebook on Cities and Culture. He has been a guest speaker on KCRW‘s Which Way, LA? and at Emerson College. Art prints of his maps are available from 1650 Gallery and on other products from Cal31. He is currently writing a book about Los Angeles and you can follow him on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
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