Tuesday, 20 August 2013
116 Children - The Mission
Acquired : 25 December 1988
Tracks : Beyond The Pale / A Wing And A Prayer / Heaven On Earth / Tower Of Strength / Kingdom Come / Breathe / Child's Play / Shamera Kye / Black Mountain Mist / Heat / Hymn ( For America )
As explained in the previous post this was my last LP Christmas present from my sister.
When The Mission first hit the charts some other popster ( I think it was Lloyd Cole but as he didn't have a record out at the time that's uncertain ) laid into Wayne Hussey along the lines of "He poses as being fey and bisexual but everyone knows he's really a Tetley Bitterman who listens to Led Zeppelin ". Whoever it was would have felt justified when The Mission re-emerged at the beginning of 1988 with John Paul Jones as their producer. As you might expect this a less Goth album than their debut with a heavier denser sound.
"Beyond The Pale" rises slowly out of children's playground noises with a Cult-like circular riff gradually making itself heard before the rhythm section kicks in around the two minute mark and Hussey coming in not long after. It's a pretty good song about the call of the sea although the lyrics are reliably cliché-ridden - "the wind is blowing wild" "From a whisper to a scream" and so on. Juliane Regan reappears to boost a strong rock chorus and combine well with a mandolin break in the middle eight. An abridged version was released as the second single but underperformed, peaking at 32.
"A Wing And A Prayer " is a better-written, driving rock song about being enslaved to drugs with Jones giving them a much crisper drum sound than on the previous LP. He might also be responsible for the glockenspiel which doesn't quite disguise the fact that the main melody is very boring, a persistent weakness throughout the LP.
"Heaven On Earth" is a case in point. The acoustic guitar / congas arrangement is inventive and Jones's string arrangement gradually makes its presence felt but it's mutton dressed as lamb because the song itself is a tuneless drone with Hussey murmuring his way through a stew of quasi-religious clichés.
"Tower Of Strength" the lead single got to number 12 and seems to be generally regarded as their best song. A remixed version was a smaller hit in 1994; it didn't do much for me but I remember one of Top Of The Pops ' forgotten goon-presenters of the 90s wittering on about the bassline. There's a big Eastern influence to the arrangement with its chattering tablas and the Indian melody line on the strings. Hussey's devotional lyrics are heartfelt and it builds up nicely to a thunderous climax.
Side Two kicks off with "Kingdom Come" which has a strong intro with some nice melodic guitar but the song itself is very routine, vaguely sexual lyrics, declamatory vocals and instantly forgettable tune.
"Breathe" is a mere snatch of a love song, slow and heavily indebted to Purple Rain.
"Child's Play" is big and blustery with heavy drums and frantic guitar thrashing. Hussey works himself into a froth seemingly about drugs again, personified as a femme fatale.
That's followed by "Shamera Kye" a brief and pointless violin drone which acts as a prologue to "Black Mountain Mist" an acoustic ballad of nostalgia for home and innocence. , Regan returns and is a plus but neither she nor the harp player can save it from Hussey's one dimensional theatrical vocal which is ill suited to the material and the dreariness of the tune.
"Heat" is full on metal with heavy drums , sexual lyrics and hard rock guitar . It's alright if you like that sort of thing but what on earth the "Fe Fi Fo Fum" kiddie chant at the end is all about is anyone's guess.
"Hymn ( For America) " rivals Def Leppard's Hello America for the subtlety of its intentions. Despite the Indian-flavoured guitar this is even heavier than the track before with the sort of hectic drum and bass gallop that Iron Maiden have made their trademark. With its lyrics about prostitution, murder and corporate religion it was never likely to endear them to the Yanks and there's not even the pretence of a tune, just another bizarre kiddie chant interlude courtesy of the Woodstock Children's Choir. If there's some over-arching concept going on here it' over my head.
If as seems likely the band were hoping to break out of the Goth ghetto to reach a new mainstream rock audience this wasn't a strong enough effort to do the trick ( although it is their highest charting LP reaching number 2 ) ; certainly America was never interested ( although my American pen friend liked them ).
All in all this was a pretty disappointing LP , the second side in particular is wearing. Just as well that my next LP purchase exceeded all expectations.