Live In London
The Mission were absolutely fantastic tonight.
So many times when you see a band in their *ahem* twilight years you go away thinking “Why can’t you just do it properly?” and leave with the vague feeling you’ve seen a facsimile of a once great band. Sometimes seeing The Mission has felt like that.
Not tonight though. The classic Roland JC120 amps are firmly back in the backline, Wayne never strayed far from his flange soaked 12 string and Evi Vine provided some appropriately Julianne Reagan-y back up vocals.
The set mixed up the classic material with stuff from the new album, which fitted together much better in a live context than previous offerings. There were some nice touches of synth and drum machine that felt fresh and interesting without sounding like a band trying to obscure their sound with frippery. They employed a classic sounding drum machine for “Tyranny Of Secrets” (a new one) and the drummer moved over to do some stand up tom tom bashing. A tried and tested move, but a good one.
It’s such a shame its taken them over two decades and a string of questionable albums for them to realise that what they do best is…. being The Mission!
Should you buy the album then?
The rather splendid looking “Another Fall From Grace” is like an open packet of Malboro Reds to the recovered nicotine addict. Everything about it screams “you want me, you need me!”. The classic font framing, in the classic style, the classic Gustave Dore illustration- an artistic seam that has been so thoroughly mined by goth bands over the last three decades it’s almost (but obviously not quite!) exhausted. You’ve almost decided it’s a great goth album before you’ve even listened to it.
It sounds more or less like it looks. The band have carefully gone back over what their fans liked about them the first time and crammed every inch of vinyl with as much of that as possible. At times you find yourself thinking “you can’t do that, you’ve just ripped off The Mission” but then…. they can do that. If this record had come out in 1989/1990 it would have been considered an all time classic. It might have been the record that kept the goth flame alive into the long dark night of the 1990s.
From an artistic point of view this record is either “too little too late” or “a welcome return to form”, depending on how much you care about new music. There are some very fine moments on it indeed, but you will have to constantly suspend you disbelief in order to really enjoy them. If you put up with songs like “Sea Of Love” and “Lovely” last time around, you’ll get over some of the more questionable moments on this record, and even embrace them as part of that classic Mission experience. If, since the mid 1980s, you’ve given up the Blue Nun and and mostly been listening to serious minded german industrial music you’ll want to give this album a wide berth indeed.
Personally I had decided to forgo this album as a waste of everybody’s time, but the absolutely joyous experience of seeing them on such excellent live form has turned my view around. I’ve bought the 12″ (production beautiful, mastering questionable) and am enjoying it immensely and without cynicism.
The Roland JC120 Solid State Amplifier
A note on the aforementioned JC120s: These amps are one of the few solid state (none valve) guitar amplifiers that carry any kind of weight with serious players. The reason why they’re an interesting touch here is that they were only really a standard fixture with bands from Liverpool in the early 80s, where you hear their distinctive tone all over that fledgling psych/post-punk scene. I imagine a batch of them must have fallen off a back of a lorry in Merseyside around 1981. Wayne Hussey imported his combination of an Aria Pro II electric 12 string and a Roland JC120 to Leeds when he joined The Sisters Of Mercy, and it was the exact combination that would later be used (recreated and emulated) by Liverpool’s Rosetta Stone.
Their reappearance in The Mission’s backline is interesting, as it backs up the idea they’re in the process of going back to their roots. The first time I remember seeing these amps at a Mission show was at a secret gig in a tiny jazz club in Bath. I guess they must have dug them out of the attic just to have something to fit on to the tiny stage and never looked back.