Black Tape for a Blue Girl – The Rope 25

January 01, 1970



When The Rope was
originally released in 1986, gothic rock was in a different place. The realm of
alternately gloomy/goofy bands like Bauhaus, the March Violets and Christian
Death, the genre dwelt in darkness in the same way as a Bela Lugosi flick: not
without its chills ‘n’ thrills, but mostly harmless and a bit silly. But the
goth mantle never sat comfortably on Black Tape for a Blue Girl’s furrowed
brow. When composer/label owner Sam Rosenthal convened his long-running project
for this debut, he wasn’t doing it to make an imaginary soundtrack to his
favorite Hammer horror movie – he was exorcising his own pain.


Carrying enough angst (mainly over lost love, but
disengagement and confusion figure prominently as well) to fill a cement mixer,
Rosenthal pours his feelings into the twin vessels of his analog synthesizers
and vocalist Oscar Herrara, letting guests add guitar, strings and counterpoint
vocals along the way. The result could’ve been an exercise in solipsism so
overwhelming that a Sinead O’Connor record would feel impersonal. But, no
matter how emo he seems on the surface, Rosenthal is too savvy for that. On
brooding tunes like “The Holy Terrors “Within These Walls” and the title track,
the mix of chilly electronics and organic instruments finds a balance that
pulls the songs from the precipice of melodrama. Using other singers puts distance
between him and the expressed sentiments and keeps the proceedings from getting
mawkish. (Herrara’s uncertain grasp on pitch helps in this regard as well, if


Rosenthal also knows when to strategically let air into his
hermetically sealed cloud. The handful of ambient instrumentals feel more like
the mists of dawn than the fog of darkness, and the opening track “Memory,
Uncaring Friend” rocks against the dying of the light despite its downcast
libretto. Plus BTFABG ends the record with “We Return an assertion that,
despite the seeming omniscience of sadness and heartbreak, we “know we will
survive.” Rosenthal may spend most of his time in the gloomy end of the pool on
The Rope, but he knows when to climb
out and find a warm towel. We can wallow in his pain with him, but ultimately
we’ll have to switch on the light just as he does.


Besides a superb remaster that belies the fact that the LP
was recorded on a four-track, this edition includes a second disk of artists
from the Projekt roster covering the album’s tunes. The highlight is, unsurprisingly,
BTFABG’s own remake of “Memory, Uncaring Friends with Dresden Doll Brian
Viglione providing drums and current singer Athan Maroulis improving on the
vocal performance.  



DOWNLOAD: “Memory,
Uncaring Friend “The Rope “Within These Walls” MICHAEL TOLAND

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