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Bauhaus – Bela Lugosi’s Dead

Sitting through this 9:37 track will change you.

Released in ’79 by Bauhaus, the song has always fascinated me. The sparseness of arrangement, the driving rhythm, the vamping build of the vocals and the languid disintegration into it’s pa…rts.

It takes its time in building up the arrangement. First drums, then the bass. Each a sole member in an empty house, pulsating in the night like a thudding heart in a stark, echo’d world. The wicked perfection of the snare and kick drum of the bossa nova beat. Like climbing the stairs of an old mansion, we hear creaks and screams as we delve further into the song.

About 1:40 or so, the first peels of guitar fritter off into the mix like mad, screaming locusts. The arrangement whoofs and pumps, slowly building with an otherworldly guitar crescendo that finally forms into a chord, a riff.

At about 2:50 into the song, Peter Murphy’s electric baritone enters the cathedral. The sparse dirge of the lyrics with his deep baritone hypnotize you. Like a demented busker, he spins a tale of death and sorrow. Of loneliness, emptiness and the void.

The songs builds into a crescendo at around 6:30. Peter Murphy screaming “Bela’s Undead. Oh Bela” as the music begins to fray and come apart, surging into the incessant beat. As Murphy finally quiets, the song begins to drop pieces of itself. The guitar making only a sound, the bass dropping a note here and there, and Murphy uttering a phrase like “undead”.

It’s definitely a song for a mood. But when you find yourself in that mood, that open, spacious arrangement, that driving beat, that spooky and otherworldly sound are a pleasure to sink into.


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