I’ve been sitting on this one for a while. I’m so happy I get to share it with you all now. As I told you earlier The Mission are back with a new album, The Brightest Light, out September 17 via The End Records (Thanks for this one, Caitlin!) and I knew as soon as I was halfway through the first song that I HAD to review it. This band really takes me back to my senior year of high school, when I dabbled in them along with The Sisters of Mercy, Concrete Blonde, All About Eve, etc., and I couldn’t wait to get through the whole record. So, away we go!
First up is the eight-minute opus “Black Cat Bone”. This is such a cool song because there’s this real vibey intro and Wayne Hussey doesn’t even start singing till about 2:40 into it. Then it takes on a life of its own. It really is a perfect album opener. “Everything But the Squeal” is one of those songs that would sound equally at home in the late 80’s on WDRE in New York or on rock radio today. It’s got a fantastic guitar line, and a groove not unlike The Cult’s early work. I can’t even tell you what the effect is at the beginning of “Sometimes the Brightest Light Comes From the Darkest Place”, but it really adds something to the song, and you can hear it faintly through the whole thing.
Two of my favorites are up next. First is “Drag”, a fast-paced tune that will have feet tapping, and steering wheel drummers pounding away to the infectious beat (you know who you are!). Next is “Born Under a Good Sign” a song that calls to mind memories of hanging in the pub in London with my cousin Paul. They had such a kickass jukebox in that place, and this one would be right at home there as we drank pint after pint. Another gem is “The Girl In the Fur Skin Rug”. This is another one that seems to transcend musical eras. The whole album sounds timeless, quite frankly, especially this song. Shades of Flesh For Lulu in the arrangement, and just a great melody.
“When the Trap Clicks Shut” really shows how good The Mission were/are both lyrically and musically. It’s one of the more reflective songs on the album, as is “Ain’t No Prayer In the Bible Can Save Us Now”, with a Tom Waits-type feel to it. It’s also a little bit alt-country. Well done. Yet another favorite arrives in “Just Another Pawn In Your Game” which is sung at somebody who is always doin’ somebody wrong, it sounds like. There are some great harmonica melodies on this one, too. I’m a sucker for a tune with a good harp in it!
“From the Oyster Comes the Pearl” is a moving love song with Wayne singing his heart out over a simple and sparse arrangement. You know that old saying, “Keep it simple”? Well, The Mission did just that, and in doing so, produced something very sweet and very classy. “Swan Song” is yet another choice cut with Wayne singing, “So don’t sing me a swan song, baby, There’s still life in this old dog yet, It ain’t over till it’s over, until the fat lady sings” and hitting a falsetto that really adds to the refrain.
The final song is “Litany For the Faithful”, Wayne’s love letter to the longtime Mission fans. It plays like a confession, a laundry list of deeds and misdeeds, with flamenco guitar accentuating the song’s bullet points. It’s almost like the condemned man’s last words before the firing squad, and is a fitting closer.
Wayne Hussey, Craig Adams, Simon Hinkler, and Mike Kelly have managed to release an album that truly lives up to, and exceeds expectations. They didn’t set out to reinvent the wheel, or try to live in the past. They just got together and made a great rock album, and that’s all anybody can ask for, right? Wayne himself said in our earlier interview, “I don’t even think this record is ‘contemporary’, I think it’s just timeless. It’s a modern-sounding rock record, but a timeless rock record. A lot of modern rock records sound too generic, and there’s a lot of technology that takes away from them. I wanted to make a record that sounded ageless.” Mission accomplished, sir. Mission accomplished…
STANDOUT TRACKS: “Swan Song”, “Born Under a Good Sign”, “Drag”, “From the Oyster Comes the Pearl”, “Black Cat Bone”, “The Girl In the Fur Skin Rug”