Back the the days when most of the artists on the Metropolis Records label were just getting their start, and when gothic-industrial as I know it was just getting started, Los Angeles Based Cleopatra Records was still the powerhouse label for goth. In the early and mid-90s, Cleopatra released goth box sets and US releases for European artists. They signed Gary Numan in 1997, released albums by goth club dance staples Razed in Black, Information Society and Heaven 17, and brought us Switchblade Symphony and Bella Morte. Since those days though, they have devolved into specializing in cover album compilations – gothic-industrial tributes to Madonna and Prince and Bow-Wow-Wow, and now, a scan of their main page reveals an artist lineup that is as much R&B as it is dance.
Still, I had hopes for Cleopatra recently. Their most recent compilation is a CD called “Gothic Divas”, containing songs from Switchblade Symphony, as well as from new bands Tre Lux (which features the vocalist from Switchblade Symphony) and New Skin. I tracked down the Gothic Divas CD on eMusic, and received the New Skin EP from my boyfriend, and thought – maybe there’s hope for Cleopatra yet.
Last week, the boyfriend received an email via the Bondage Ball email list, inviting everyone on that mailing list to the Cleopatra 14 year anniversary party on Sunday, at the Larchmont on Melrose. The only catch was that it was on a Sunday – and some of us have to get up at six in the morning on weekdays so we can take various colors of train across L.A. from Pasadena to Beverly Hills. Still, I wanted to go, because I do sacrifice sleep to go out on the goth scene sometimes.
But fortunately for my work, the party wasn’t worth skipping sleep for. It was decidedly not a goth event before 11pm. Maybe it became one afterwards; I don’t know. But when we were there, instead of hearing the Cleopatra artist roster, we were hearing the KROQ playlist from 2004: Weezer’s “Hash Pipe”, the Killers “Somebody Told Me”, Franz Ferdinand “Take Me Out”. And I saw so much hairspray and blue jean skirts with Doc Martens that I wondered for a minute or two if, to celebrate the label’s 14 year anniversary, there was a 1992 revival going on that no one had told me about.
I was disappointed. Not that there isn’t enough of a goth scene in L.A. to keep me out almost constantly, but I had had hope for Cleopatra. There are so many music labels of all sizes and specialties in L.A., and it’s a shame that the local label for goth isn’t still the sort of powerhouse that it could be, or that it was, and that the event we stopped by on Sunday reflected that. If the party got better later on, and I’m just being judgemental, feel free to tell me so – but I had just hoped for a turn back to the label that brought us so much wonderful music back in the 1990s. Especially in Los Angeles, city of the music industry.