The Mission

Singles A's & B's

Writing from the vantage point of 2015, it beggars belief just how massive The Mission actually were at one point. We’re talking headlining the 1989 Reading Festival massive. Topping the bill at Wembley Arena massive. Filling Finsbury Park massive. And not just poncing around the UK and Europe massive but proper bloody world tours massive.

To listen to this collection of The Mission’s singles and their flipsides (the clue is in the title) is to feel the increasing tightening of buttocks and sphincter to create diamonds if a lump of coal had been shoved up there first. It’s a compilation that throws itself into the toilet pausing only to pull the flush on itself before disappearing round the U-bend and landing on something foul.

This isn’t an album totally devoid of charms. The early material culled from the band’s independent releases on Birmingham’s Chapter 22 label are easily the most palatable, if only for the simple reason that many of them had already been demoed for The Sisters Of Mercy in the wake of their debut album, First And Last And Always. Though dismissed by The Sisters’ Andrew Eldritch on the grounds that he couldn’t sing the lyrics to ‘Serpent’s Kiss’, ‘Garden Of Delight’ and ‘Naked And Savage’ with a straight face (you can almost hear him smirk on the bootleg versions), the tracks nonetheless give some sonic clue as to where The Sisters would’ve headed next if they hadn’t broken up in such acrimonious circumstances. Also, some kudos is at least due to singer-guitarist Wayne Hussey and bassist Craig Adams for realising that if they were going to revel in being total rock pigs, then a drummer – in this case Mick Brown from the criminally under-rated noise merchants Red Lorry Yellow Lorry – would be needed.

And total rock pigs is what they became, leaving behind a trail of empty bottles of Blue Nun wine and discarded underwear. How they must have laughed when their response to Andrew Eldritch securing the bombastic production services of Jim Steinman was hiring former Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones to helm their own version of ‘Kashmir’ in the form of the pompous ‘Tower Of Strength’. (Speaking of Jones’ former alma mater, it’s a wonder Jimmy Page didn’t sue their arses for ripping off the intro to ‘Achilles Last Stand’ for the execrable ‘Severina’).

Depending on your point of view and how black your wardrobe is, The Mission reached some kind of peak or nadir on ‘Deliverence’. Here shorn of its elongated intro, all that’s left are some of the most mirth inducing lyrics ever written as Hussey’s sings with a perfectly straight face of fairy queens and swords rising from lakes. From here on in, the compilation becomes increasingly awful as it plummets to earth to land with an undignified splat.

There’s some fun to be had with their cover versions – hell, they even formed a glam rock tribute band, The Metal Gurus, at one point – and you’ve got to admire Hussey’s chutzpah at adding an extra chord to The Beatles’ ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ but that’s hardly something you want written on your gravestone.

As this compilation so cruelly shows, the passing of the decades have not been kind to The Mission. It may cause some of the people who were there at the time to cringe at the memory of it all. On a more positive note, this’ll be the perfect album for creating some side-splitting and gasping-for-air hilarity the next time you feel compelled to drop a hundred Welsh mushrooms washed down with a pint of snakebite and black.

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