’80S cola goth-rockers bachelors of art receive well-deserved reissue treatment, announce reunion show music free-times.com is there a gas station near me


The 1980s were a fertile time for local music in Columbia. The original music scene was beginning to grow beyond the borders of the city, and one of the earliest bands to take their tunes on the road regionally was the goth-rock outfit Bachelors of Art. Jay Matheson, proprietor of Rosewood’s Jam Room Recording Studio, played bass with the group for about half its tenure, and he recently remastered and posted online digital versions of two of the band’s original albums — 1988’s Descend Again and 1990’s Love Is Dead — which have been out of print for many years.

The first two reissues offer an intriguing opportunity to consider the group’s local legacy. Bachelors of Art, or B.O.A. as they were known in later years, were a hugely influential force on the local scene for several reasons. First, they were not playing typical Southern rock ‘n’ roll, instead forging a variation on the goth-rock sounds made popular by major acts such as Sisters of Mercy and Siouxsie and the Banshees. In retrospect, it was perhaps derivative, but the power with which Robin Wilson could sing put them over the top live. Second, their first drummer was Jim “Soni” Sonefeld, who went on to join a little local cover band called Hootie & the Blowfish. Most importantly, however, the band proved that getting out of Columbia and hitting the regional club circuit could pay dividends and generate a fan base well beyond their hometown, something that few if any had done up to that point.

I first came across Bachelors of Art as a University of South Carolina undergrad in 1987, when they had already established a reputation from playing local clubs such as The Beat. This particular night, they were playing an AIDS research benefit at the G.R.O.W. Cafe. The low ceilings and terrible lighting didn’t obscure the vision of Wilson’s shock of long, white-blond curls, or mask the delay pedal that guitarist Tom Alewine rode all through the set to create that swirling, constant sound underneath Wilson’s vocals. This was the group that recorded the murky Descend Again, only released on cassette before now.

“Recorded in 1988 on an 8 Track reel to reel,” as noted by a single Bandcamp liner note, the remaster cleans up the sound and positions Wilson’s voice more forward in the mix. The songs come across as epics of their era, from the Siouxsie-on-“Cities In Dust”-style wail of Wilson on “Ban Jara” to the foreshadowing of their soon-to-emerge heavier side on “Crowded House.” The most quintessential song here is “Cut the Ropes,” with searing vocals from Wilson, multiple dynamic shifts, and a cryptic yet sing-along chorus.

Carl Singmaster from Manifest Discs and Tapes founded a record label, Manifest Records, to release Love Is Dead, which showcases the more hard rock-leaning style the band transitioned into after Descend Again. “Crowded House” reappears, and a couple other tracks are re-done from This Tribal Courthouse in an attempt at the time to gather their best tunes together in one pro studio recording.

The opening title track embodies the heavier thrust of B.O.A.’s final phase, with prominent bass and drums and less of a gothic dance feel than the early material; Wilson is nearly screaming here. They were still capable of subtlety, however, as the quietly building “Black Eyed Susan” attests.

After not hearing many of these songs for decades, the revelations come in the less-remembered tracks — such as “Everything,” which kicks off with a Red Hot Chili Peppers-style slap-bass riff and gets pretty funky for a goth-metal act. “Pumping My Heart” is another unexpected twist; without Wilson’s darkly inviting voice it could pass for a power pop anthem.

Bachelors of Art never did parlay their well-earned regional renown into bigger things. Perhaps their goth-rock sound wasn’t mainstream enough for mass appeal. But there are a core group of fans who will nonetheless be glad to hear these albums again, and to hear them sound better than ever before. Those unfamiliar with the group now have a chance to discover these not-quite-forgotten Columbia music heroes for themselves.