These days I'm extremely picky about the goth that I'll listen to. There'll always be a place in my heart for Bauhaus and (Rozz Williams era) Christian Death, but I certainly don't have the time for cheesy Sisters wannabes. One of the bands that stands the test of time, who I'll probably love 'til I'm dust and bones, is This Mortal Coil. Like any goth band worth hearing, This Mortal Coil weren't really goth. They were a huge staple in dream pop music, the less guitar-heavy sister scene of shoegaze. Also, they weren't so much a band as a project.
From the early 80's to the mid-90's, 4AD Records was one of the world's most respected indie labels, throwing up excellent bands like the Pixies, Cocteau Twins, Modern English, Bauhaus, and Dead Can Dance. This Mortal Coil was the long-term project of 4AD's president Ivo Watts-Russell, in which he pulled together some of the label's best talent to record covers of 70's pop tunes. Since he'd gathered artists as diverse as The Breeders and Dead Can Dance (and because these people are accustomed to doing whatever the fuck they want), most of the tracks sound radically dissimilar. Also, since the covers are of lesser-known songs by well-known artists (Syd Barrett, Tim Buckley, Talking Heads, Van Morrison, etc.), the albums invoke a sensation sort of like remembering a dream that you'd forgotten about months ago. Adding to the surrealism, all of the tracks are blended and overlapped like on a Pink Floyd record. Beautiful.
You may have heard This Mortal Coil before without realizing it. Trent Reznor sampled them on the 'Pretty Hate Machine' album, though I couldn't tell you what or where. Their cover of 'Song to the Siren' showed up in David Lynch's Lost Highway, as well as in The Lovely Bones and a dozen other films. It also played at the beginning of the trailer for the '03 remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
So, is this for everyone? No, not if you don't have time stuff on the softer side. So who is it for? I don't know. People who like ethereal, folk, or experimental music. Fans of Radiohead or Sigur Ros. Art rock aficionados. People who would have liked to have heard Billie Holiday fronting Interpol. Lactose intolerant Goths who can't swallow cheese.
Here's a shopping list:*
*That's good for a sampling, but these songs are meant to be listened to in album form.