Oh, so many musical moments to feel shame for. Buying Toto IV in fourth grade, the Dr. Demento mixtapes in eighth, two Thievery Corporation CDs in the early part of this millennium.
But Nocturnal Emissions' 1988 album is the one that marks the peak of my pretentions and the beginning of the end of my goth industrial period.
After becoming the kind of teenager that other teenagers’ mothers worried about -- at least in Elkhart, Indiana -- I headed off to Belgium in 1988, which I’d picked from the list of countries because it was a) French-speaking and b) the home of Front 242. I splurged on a nice Walkman and brought my favorite tapes; a few months into my stay, my friend Suzannah copied a bunch of her newest albums onto cassettes and sent them to me.
Now, at the time, the Cocteau Twins and Dead Can Dance were about the most singalong music I would allow in my ears. A Wax Trax devotee, I was obsessed with Skinny Puppy, Chris & Cosey, and Meat Beat Manifesto, and was also testing the limits of my tolerance with Psychic TV, Nurse With Wound, and Current 93, all of which freaked me the fuck out, in the best way. “Melody is so dead,” I remember thinking.
I’d enjoyed some of the Nocturnal Emissions Suzannah had played for me, so I was particularly keen on listening to my new copy of Spiritflesh. I plugged in the cassette, swooned on the upstairs couch, and began listening. It was the most abstract goth industrial album I’d listened to, more ambient than anything else, full of crackles and hissing, random pops and clunks. I listened to it for a half hour, both rapt and puzzled, then criticized myself for not liking this amazing avant-garde band more. A week or two later, I tried again, with the same, dispirited response. Was I not worthy of Nocturnal Emissions? Was I destined to become a hopeless Cure fan, too mainstream to ever make it into the shadowy underworld?
A few days later, as I was listening to another copied cassette, the album ended and the music gave way to the same crackles and hisses. I realized Suzannah had simply misrecorded the whole thing.
By the next year, I was collecting disco 12-inches.