Aural Fixation: Bauhaus’ “Double Dare”

I’ve always had a fascination with the first songs on bands’ debut albums.  Though, in many cases, a band’s career will officially open with an EP or single, the introductory song on their first full-length always intrigued me as being their leading foot, their grand entrance into the world.  “Here we are, and this is who we are!”  While “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” remains one of the greatest debut singles ever, my favorite Bauhaus song is, unquestionably, “Double Dare,” the lead track from their 1980 debut, In The Flat Field.

While “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” set the stage for arresting minimalism, “Double Dare” is more of a showcase, with each of Bauhaus’ four members contributing examples of what would become their signature techniques.  The track opens with a fuzzed-out bassline from David J, whose two-note rumble drives the rest of the song in a grim dirge.  Clattering about are Kevin Haskins‘ drums, alternately complex and primitive, giving the song a foundation that is unsteady yet controlled.  Just as in “Bela Lugosi’s Dead,” Daniel Ash doesn’t play his guitar as much as he tortures it, wringing out squeals and shrieks deep in the mix.  And, of course, there’s Peter Murphy‘s vocal, an instrument unto itself.

“Double Dare” is a real tantrum of a song.  Bauhaus never really had a knack for melody, but that’s okay.  Instead, they created an atmosphere of menace, dread and tension, then Murphy shouted words on top of it.  My two other favorite ‘goth’ groups, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds and The Sisters Of Mercy were also great at making atmospheric songs, but they had way more pop sensibility than Bauhaus (at least in their early days).  As a debut opener, “Double Dare” is strangely inviting.  By the end, Murphy’s refrain of “I dare you” collapses into grunts and howls.  The rest of In The Flat Field is great stuff, too, but “Double Dare” stands out as an early high mark for the quartet.  From what I’ve seen, Bauhaus opened their recent reunion concerts with “Double Dare,” confirming my assertion that it has endured as one of their best.

Listen: Bauhaus – “Double Dare” from In The Flat Field (1980)

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~ by E. on February 24, 2010.

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