Sunday, 11 August 2013
113 God's Own Medicine - The Mission
Purchased : November 11 1988
Tracks : Wasteland / Bridges Burning / Garden Of Delight / Stay With Me / Let Sleeping Dogs Die / Sacrilege / Dance On Glass / And The Dance Goes On / Severina / Love Me To Death
This was purchased from Soundsearch for £4.50.
When my loyal reader Dee C. Harrison recently mentioned The Mission in the thread on the last Bolshoi album I resisted the temptation to tell him how soon they'd be coming up.
When I went to Leeds University in the autumn of 1983 I was vaguely familiar with the Sisters of Mercy from the David Jensen show but more or less dismissed them as a sub-Joy Division outfit who wouldn't escape the confines of the independent charts. I was therefore surprised by how big a deal they were in their home city or at least campus ( although Andrew Eldritch had left the university by that point ). The Mission formed as an offshoot from the Sisters in a very messy and acrimonious process in the latter half of 1985. Bassist Craig Adams quit the group after an argument with Eldritch and guitarist Wayne Hussey decided to take his side. When Eldritch heard they intended to call themselves The Sisterhood he gazumped them by releasing a new single under that name himself and won an ensuing court case forcing his ex-bandmates to find a new name for their enterprise. Despite an arguably better claim to the Sisters legacy - two as opposed to one of the last line-up including increasingly the main songwriter - the music press sided with Eldritch and The Mission were doomed to a permanently rough ride from the critics.
Adams and Hussey filled the gaps in the line-up with Mick Brown , the human drummer the Sisters never had, from Leeds agit-rockers Red Lorry Yellow Lorry and a second guitarist Simon Hinkler who had briefly been in an early line-up of Pulp. The material on this debut LP released in November 1986 was almost all originally written for the Sisters ; some were recorded in rough form with Eldritch, others are songs he had rejected.
I first became interested in them when "Wasteland" made number 11 ( their highest ever placing as it turned out ) in January 1987 just before I secured my first job and it seemed very appropriate for both a particularly harsh winter and my own situation. I loved the spoken word intro "I still believe in God but God no longer believes in me" although sadly almost inaudible on the album version. The song itself is quintessential Goth rock with its blend of acoustic and electric guitar, driving bass , rock solid drumming and dramatic vocals and lyrics. There's certainly a Bono-ish tinge to the latter as the song seems to detail a spiritual crisis - "Heaven and hell I know them well but I haven't yet made my choice".
"Bridges Burning" is less impressive , a string of heroic clichés and trite rhymes slung together over an Indian-flavoured riff , Hinkler achieving the sound of a sitar, and wild animal noises suggesting a familiarity with recent Cure LPs. Listening to this Eldritch's biting criticism of Hussey's lyric-writing begins to bite.
"Garden Of Delight" was one of the songs the Sisters were working on before the split and came out as a single on an independent label ( making number 49 ) before the band's deal with Mercury. This is a different version again , slowed down and orchestrated with scraping strings. It's unashamedly sexual, full of unsubtle erotic metaphors but the song isn't really strong enough to warrant such a dramatic treatment.
"Stay With Me" gave the band the Top 40 hit , in autumn 1986, that had always eluded the Sisters up to that point. Another ode to the joys of sex - "take me deep inside" , "sleepless nights I've spent with angels heaven sent" and so on, it has a good swing carried by the massed acoustic guitars and melodic riff.
"Let Sleeping Dogs Die" is the first track that you suspect might be about the Sisters' split with lyrics of hurt betrayal and Hussey intoning the verses in a voice as close to the Eldritch baritone as he can get. While the lyrical coherence is welcome it's not a great song , a hollow epic that seems to be building up to a big chorus then doesn't deliver.
"Sacrilege" picks up the pace with an intro featuring frantic pounding from Brown and purposeful verses based around a melodic guitar riff. Hussey musters some righteous anger about heroin addiction -"Say goodbye to the salad days, arms stretched out for the needle haze" and the chorus features some nice Banshees guitar.
"Dance On Glass" makes a point to Eldritch for it was originally intended for the first Sisters album but Eldritch disliked the lyrics and re-wrote it as Black Planet. It's hard not to take his side as Hussey seems to have hit the rhyming dictionary pretty hard again - "dust/rust, spell/tell , meek/cheek" etc. and thus his straining passion as the song progresses becomes rather risible. The slow and dry arrangement is also inferior lacking all the dark drama of the Sisters song despite a small contribution from Julianne Regan on backing vocals.
"And The Dance Goes On" also seems to refer to the feud and is a perfectly acceptable slice of Goth rock with some good guitar work and a string-augmented middle eight.
"Severina" was the third single notable for introducing the golden tones of Julianne Regan to the charts. A tribute to some hippy chick, it shows a grasp of song construction not evidenced elsewhere with dramatic pauses and a call and response dynamic between Hussey's lines and his guitar. But it's Regan who lifts it high with her wordless Claire Torrey-esque contribution in the middle eight and outro, conjuring up the spirit of early 70s mysticism so prevalent in her own band's work.
Wayne the lover man returns for "Love Me To Death" which gives David Coverdale a run for his money for how many dodgy sexual metaphors can be crammed into four and a half minutes. Regan obviously took it in good part for she's back to add sugar to the chorus and it's not a bad song to round off the LP with a crisp beat and some good guitar work.
I had relatively modest expectations for this LP and it just about delivered, proving that they chose the singles well if nothing else. It's not long before we'll be discussing the next one.