In 1985, Leeds natives Wayne Hussey (guitar, vocals) and Craig Adams (bass) left the gothic Sisters of Mercy (Hussey had also been in Dead or Alive) to form their own group, the Mission. (The American “UK” was appended because a Philadelphia R&B band was already using the name.) Joined by ex-Red Lorry Yellow Lorry drummer Mick Brown and a guitarist drafted from Artery, the group planted one foot in the British neo-hippie camp and another in the land of pompous goth-metal stupidity.
The dull and insipid guitar/keyboard/string bombast of Gods Own Medicine proceeds from a horrible amalgam of Led Zeppelin, Yes and Echo & the Bunnymen. Several tracks were huge British hits, but listening to the LP fails to reveal any exceptional qualities “Garden of Delight” or “Stay With Me” might have that would explain their popularity. Hussey’s ponderous and toneless intonation ruins the songs’ scant intrinsic merit; thick-sounding production (by Tim Palmer and the band) finishes the job. The CD has two extra cuts.
The First Chapter, an odds-and-nods collection of non-LP items, is actually less of an audio trial than Gods Own Medicine. It presents the Mission’s debut 45, “Serpents Kiss,” as well as an extended remix of “Garden of Delight” and a batch of covers — “Tomorrow Never Knows” (Beatles), “Wishing Well” (Free), “Dancing Barefoot” (Patti Smith) and “Like a Hurricane” (Neil Young) — that only point up the band’s songwriting incapacity. Despite the borrowed title, “Over the Hills and Far Away” is an original.
John Paul Jones evidently didn’t hold such pilferage from Zeppelin against the Mission: he produced the semi-listenable Children. Hussey’s pseudo-poetic lyrics are pure middle-brow malarkey and his singing is still a problem, but the measured music benefits from the organization and air of Jones’ firm dynamic grip, economically applied guitar lines and occasionally neat fripperies, like the sitar on “Beyond the Pale.” The Beyond the Pale EP surrounds Children‘s lead-off song with “Love Me to Death” from Gods Own Medicine and a couple of non-LP tracks.
With Led Zep out of the Mission’s system, the group reenlisted Tim Palmer to produce Carved in Sand, which doesn’t sound very different from its predecessor. Hussey’s melodramatic voice, precious/dumb lyrics — although the portrait of child abuse in “Amelia” is an exception, “Grapes of Wrath” piles on the heartland clichés and the iteration of beliefs in “Lovely” merely inverts John Lennon’s “God” — and the band’s unimaginative music (another use of sitar?) weigh down the meandering, incoherent effort. The one flash of life — a striking guitar riff that opens “Hungry as the Hunter” — is quickly buried in a swirling sea of pompous noise.
Other than “Hands Across the Ocean,” a fine (?!) new track produced by Andy Partridge of XTC (?!), Grains of Sand consists of outtakes, covers, B-sides and a remix from Carved in Sand. As big a thrill as this release may be to Missionaries, drivel like “Mercenary” could easily have remained in the can. And why record a lovely song like the Kinks’ “Mr. Pleasant” if you’re only going to sound obnoxiously condescending about it?
Beneath the overly mannered vocals and self-important lyrics, the propulsive dance rock of Masque (produced by veteran Cure and Erasure studio hand Mark Saunders and the band) has solid measures of brio and color. (Imagine Frankie Goes to Hollywood playing the Simple Minds catalogue. Or don’t.) The guest appearance of former Waterboy Anthony Thistlethwaite lends credence (if not context) to the jaunty singalong bounce of “She Conjures Me Wings” if not the Arabic slither of “Sticks and Stones.” But there’s nothing that could support the sagging lame declarations of crucifixion, the accusations of deceit, the warnings of unreliability, the self-pity or the theological nonsense of “From One to Jesus to Another,” which conflates John Lennon, Judas Iscariot, Baudelaire, Mickey Mouse, Walt Disney, Marilyn Monroe, JFK, Kahlil Gibran, Vincent Van Gogh … you get the idea. As Hussey ties himself up in nonsense, the band makes an entirely pleasant noise, but again to no avail.
After a live album, Sum and Substance closed the band’s major-label career with a retrospective (and partly remixed) of the band’s Mercury work, from “Stay With Me” to Masque. That was followed by Salad Daze, a collection of four BBC sessions, dating from 1986, 1988 and 1990. The 14 cuts include the Mission’s attacks on “Tomorrow Never Knows,” “Wishing Well” and “Like a Hurricane,” as well as such originals as “Kingdom Come,” “Wasteland” and “Butterfly on a Wheel.”