Another record-label inspired genre, as virtually every known practitioner of this style can be found on the Projekt records compilation ‘A Dark Cabaret’. Cabaret itself is a concept that stretches back many decades, and would have roots in Opera, Classical and Theatre.
It’s a particular aesthetic that this genre is trying to capture – imagine a smoke-filled basement club in Weimar Germany, where decadent performers would entertain by pushing the conservative (by today’s standards) limits of social acceptability. It was a counter-culture that bridged the two World Wars.
And it was a counter-culture that certain dark-scene practitioners sought to recapture a couple of generations later. A number of the first-generation Gothic bands touched upon the concept at times, but the style really came into it’s own when Rozz Williams and Gitane DeMone, both refugees of the long and painful Christian Death saga, recording an album of cover versions in a cabaret style in 1996 entitled ‘Dream Home Heartache’. The style’s biggest success story, though, is the American duo The Dresden Dolls, to whom the description ‘Brechtian Punk Cabaret’ has been applied.
The success of The Dresden Dolls was sufficient for a whole new movement to form around the style, with various projects, new and old, contributing to the aforementioned Dark Cabaret compilation (despite it’s significance, a follow-up has yet to emerge). The arrival of the genre was nicely timed to sit parallel to the revival of Burlesque fashion (thank you Dita), to which this style proved to be a suitable soundtrack.