THE MISSION: CHILDREN by Juanky Ruido
It has been 30 years since “Children” (Mercury Records, Feb 1988) came out (Let's not forget that “First Chapter” was nothing but the re-edition of their first two EPs), the second “official” record by The Mission, the band from Leeds, UK.
For this humble writer, this was a key record, an essential part of my life's score, which was played from dusk till dawn in our first incarnation as RuidosyZumbidos in Radio Arrebato (www.radioarrebato.net). For this reason, this anniversary is the perfect opportunity to review the record and to tell you about it.
Don’t panic because of The Mission’s GOTH label: Children is above all a ROCK record (in capital letters). It has its twist of psychodelia, its pinch of folk and some songs with a heavier atmosphere. But it definitely contains everything that a rock lover would desire: a consistent rhythmical base (with “flow”, I would add), some powerful guitars with outstanding riffs, and top vocals that captivate us. Everything is perfectly balanced by John Paul Jones’ production (no other than Led Zeppelin’s bassist, perhaps the reason of its rock essence).
If there is someone who's still unsure of how Children sounds, let's just say that some songs remind us of the already mentioned Led Zep, with a hint of U2, Simple Minds and sometimes (don’t kill me, it is the truth) the Spanish band Heroes del Silencio.
A little bit of history: The Mission, the band from Leeds, UK, was born due to (should we say “thanks to”?) the ego of one of the biggest egomaniac in rock industry: Mr Andrew Eldrich, factotum of The Sisters of Mercy. In the mythical British cult band, Wayne Hussey and Craig Adams were working as guitar and bass players. Tired of Eldrich’s tyranny (who “stole” their compositions, re-recorded their tracks and -basically- did whatever he felt like), they left the band, recruited drummer Mick Brown and guitar Simon Hinkler. Then they baptized their new band as The Sisterhood in a clear defiance to their previous fellow…
Eldrich didn’t make it that easy on his former band members and released a record titled The Sisterhood forcing the new band to change their name and to adopt the definitive The Mission. In this process of metamorphosis there were compositions which stayed on both sides of the battle, creating different songs: that’s the case of “Dance On Glass” / “Black Planet”.
From the start, both fans and critics kept an eye on Hussey’s new band. The release of their first LP (God’s Own Medicine, 1986) was quite successful, providing them with a strong fan base (eskimos, missionaries, mish) and with the chance of touring with already established bands (The Psychedelic Furs, U2)…
The sound of the first record is a clear departure from The Sisters of Mercy dark style. They explore a much lighter atmosphere, they replaced Doktor Avalanche’s programming by “real drums”, and the production of the newcomer Tim Palmer, who gave a more psychedelic touch (almost “folkie”) to some of the band’s compositions.
The most radical sector of the goth movement quickly rose against The Mission for moving away from The Sisters’ foundations. Nothing to say against this: Sisters undoubtedly created a distinctive sound, really personal and absolutely recognizable, while The Mission preferred to broaden their musical range towards more “standard” sounds.
However, 30 years later, we should also consider that The Sisters have only given us only two studio albums since Hussey’s departure, while The Mission have published 11 records, many of them featuring truly outstanding tracks.
(here you can find Jorge Trinchet’s review of their last album: Another Fall From Grace)
But let’s focus on Children. The record was created, understandably, with the rush of a hostage who has just been released. After the initial shock (God’s Own Medicine), this "hostage" finally has the chance to discover a world of (almost) infinite possibilities.
The eclectic style of the record is good proof. Without stepping away from rock & roll territory, we get strokes of folk (Black Mountain Mist) and direct connections to heavy metal (Dream On). If you listen carefully to some of the tracks, you'll find that the range of guitars is overwhelming: acoustic, electric, classical, mandolin, 12-string… harps…
The escape from Eldrich’s dictatorship (or what he considered “goth”) let them choose: of course there are still songs with a heavier atmosphere (Heat, Hymn for America) but there are also other tracks where, among multiple layers of sound, The Mission steps into other fields, either well explored by others (Led Zeppelin) or by themselves before (Fabienne, perhaps the most Sisters-like song from the album, which reminds us of Marian)…
… and other tracks take their time to form authentic hymns (Beyond The Pale, Deliverance, Kingdom Come*); or explore positive, optimistic, atmospheres, as if -after their previous (musical) strangulation-, they were breathing for the first time (Breath)
Some of you might be wondering about the length of some of the songs (Beyond The Pale, 7:49; Deliverance, 8:03) which has been signature element of their discography throughout the years. Personally, it is one of my favorite things about The Mission, especially those long intros that make us slowly dive into the heart of the song with an increasing and thrilling sense of anticipation. These tracks are clear examples:
(Not the official clip but… Yeah, “I believe in magic!”)
If I had to pick my favorites tracks (and that's quite a challenge since the record is so compact), I would go with two of the most different songs: the precious “medieval” ballad “Black Mountain Mist” (featuring Hussey playing guitar and harp, and Julianne Regan’s delicate voice) and the aforementioned cover of Aerosmith’s “Dream On”. I do not mean to disregard Steven Tyler’s original. But I must admit that this version is superior, thanks partly to, again, Regan’s voice... such an epic finale…
Check them out!!!
Freedom, that concept so difficult to define… What is the musician’s freedom? Doing whatever he feels like? Doing what he can? Doing what his audience expects him to do???
I think “Children” is Hussey’s direct answer to those who accused him of “treason”: an album that, without leaving ROCK territory, proves that The Mission’s musical range could go far beyond the gothic scene; a truly solid record packed with outstanding songs.
Even though they have tried to bring back that sound with their last two albums, 30 years later we still miss albums like “Children”…
Ps.: The case of Kingdom Come is most curious: in Children we discovered a good (magnificent) rock track; but two years later (in Grains of Sand) it would turn into a ripping ballad, creating what I consider one of the best auto-covers in rock history changing the rock mood by a bare piano, and, far from losing strength, gaining depth. Hard to choose between the two.
Compare them (and enjoy both)
If you want to watch/listen to all the songs in the post, here is our YOUTUBE PLAYLIST: