MUSIC REVIEW | The Sisters of Mercy – First and Last and Always (1985)


Sometimes, a band’s sound can be so influential and ubiquitous, that it’s imitated and ripped off so much in the following years, it’s impossible to appreciate it for what it was at the time.  Cheap knock offs, intentionally over the top piss takes, even decent results from that band’s influence can sometimes overshadow the original.  The Sisters of Mercy may have been amazing, but I’ll never know, because too many cheap knock offs, intentionally over the top piss takes, and even decent results from that band’s influence have made everything about First and Last and Always sound too much like a caricature with 2015 hindsight.

I’m not sure what The Sisters of Mercy were trying to say with Black Planet, but if the intention was to scream, “This is the 80s!”, then mission accomplished.  What was it about 80s singers, particularly English 80s singers, that they all chased that deep, brooding, dramatic sound?  These days, you can hear it in The National, but it seems like it was a prerequisite to getting a record deal 30 years ago.

I don’t necessarily mean that as a criticism, and I even kind of like it.  But combined with the synth heavy music and such an era specific vocal sound, I can’t imagine even this band’s biggest fans and most staunch defenders would ever use the word ‘timeless’ when talking about The Sisters of Mercy and songs like Walk Away and No Time to Cry.  The latter does something amazing by somehow managing to harmonise monotone vocals.  How can you harmonsie almost zero melody?  God bless ‘em, this band found a way.

Again, not meaning to take anything away from this band, but the three decades of music means it’s all but impossible for me to listen to these songs without that context.  So, with that disclaimer, Between a Rock and Hard Place and Marian sound more like parodies of this kind of music than someone seriously making this kind of music.  They’re so ridiculous, if someone did release this song as a parody, they’d be accused of being too over the top.

I wish I could remove myself more from the last 30 years of music and listen to The Sister of Mercy and First and Last and Always with untainted ears.  I really wish I could.  But that’s just isn’t possible.  And all I can hear is kind of ridiculous in its over earnestness and cheesy pop sensibilities.  Maybe it wasn’t cheesy pop back then, but I have to imagine it was always just as over earnest.  And I just can’t get past it.

The Sisters of Mercy

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