Considering his label’s melancholic leanings and the fact that Caleb Braaten always looks like he played alongside Nick Cave during his prickly Berlin phase, it’s no surprise the Sacred Bones founder delivers such a solid overview of second-tier Siouxsies and long-forgotten Birthday Parties in Killed By Deathrock Vol. 1. Collect what ya know, right? Sure enough, six years of crate-digging went into curating this cobwebbed compilation, which serves as a caustic but catchy reminder of an era where “being Goth” meant teasing one’s hair like Robert Smith and smearing everything in mascara while praying to Peter Murphy at night — not trips to the mall and the perfect blend of Manic Panic and skull-ridden T-shirts. And while there’s nothing wrong with that — everybody’s gotta start somewhere — there’s no denying the gateway drug nature of musty collections like this.
Much like the scuffed gems that are scattered across the garage-rock series Back From the Grave and the punk Killed By Death LPs that loosely inspired Braaten’s own Deathrock 101 lecture, every one of the rarities on here landed in its filler-free tracklisting for a reason. That goes for everything from the hook-laden self-hatred of Your Funeral’s “I Wanna Be You” to the rowdy drum rolls and spiky bass lines of Twisted Nerve’s “When I’m Alone.” There’s also a liberal sprinkling of rudimentary synths and actual chords that place these tracks firmly in the post-Pistols camp. The only part that starts to sound familiar after a while is the lyrics — lots of doomy talk about dwelling in the shadows, being down with Bela Lugosi, and the point at which pain becomes pleasure. But that’s OK; when have you ever met a Goth kid who didn’t need a hug? You’ll need one as well after losing yourself for hours in this dark tunnel.