Thursday, February 22, 2024

Is It Goth? Is It Rock? Is It Pop? It’s All Of The Above – And It’s Freya Beer’s ‘Write Her Off’

Is goth making a comeback? Has goth ever left? There is a particular pleasure in seeing a musical genre – rather, a whole subculture – that was from its very beginning challenging in all its aspects, from sound to aesthetic, showing up now again and again with new voices that are both grounded in the past and seriously innovative in their take. Especially as it felt at one point that the genre was at risk of dissolving into the rather less threatening trend of emo pop, it is especially satisfying to see artists who are honing onto these new pop influences in goth and doing something new with them.

Of these, Freya Beer is easily one of the most interesting.

The West London singer-songwriter mixes the most classic of rock guitars with subtly eerie vocals, a deftly curated sharp edge and the danceability of classic pop. That she manages to blend all of these together without losing the quintessentially goth vibe of her tracks is a testament to her intelligence as a songwriter, but also of her deep knowledge of the history of the genre and clearsightedness in terms of where she wants to go next: qualities that are rare to find even in artists with many more releases under their belt.

Take her latest single, ‘Write Her Off (WHO)’: it has the themes and pace of the most classic of pop anthems, but the choice of lyrics – pointed and precise, as has been the case with all of Beer’s output so far – is solidly grounded in the goth mood. Her work echoes of the likes of The Sisters of Mercy (see also the guitar solo) and early Horrors, as do some little touches in the way the vocals are rendered, the deep expressiveness that almost goes into cabaret-style delivery, which is a far cry from what pop – contemporary pop especially – has got us used to. It is a catchy tune, and no doubt about that. But, it is a catchy tune with a very sharp edge, supported by a solid structure of deep, steady bass and mounting drum. It more than holds its own as a hard rock song, even – another parallel that comes to mind in terms of both sharpness and overall mood is Saint Agnes. Clever production helps augment a mood that walks the very taut tightrope between the consciously dramatic and the just-a-tad-too-excessive, managing to always remain on the right side of it.

There is in places a sense that Beer could push the sound even further: she has the vocal skill to do it, and the slightly twisted imagination required for playing with the more out-there elements of her songwriting. Perhaps that is to come in the future; it would be a more than welcome development. For now, Write Her Off does exactly what it means to: it explores the many facets of unrequited love, from the slightly creepy to the sadly relatable, not without a touch of humour, and delivers a highly effective blend of goth, rock, and pop that makes for a thoroughly enjoyable track with high repeat listen potential.

Chiara Strazzulla


Image: ‘Write Her Off (WHO)’ Official Single Cover

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