Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

The Sisters of Mercy
First and Last and Always


Released 1985 on Merciful Release
Reviewed by Moon Cat, 22/07/2001ce


Fuck, mouth's dry and tastes of wine. On a mini comedown from small psychedelics, great food, beer and good company. Checked reflection in hall mirror as I came through door...check the damage. Hair all like a manga cartoon....eyeliner smudged and coalescing into small mascara mine in the corner of my eyes. Yup....perfect to review the following album. A bit of a sleazy mess...but in a good way.

The Sisters: To Goth or not to goth....that is the question.
The first thing any goth band worth their batsblood does is say "we ain't goth!"
Thing is with The Sister's it was true....they weren't..not really. Sure, by the time of their debut album they had the accoutrements of perfect 80s gothdom...drum machine, dry ice to the max (only superceded by the fantastically OTT Fields of the Nephilim who used so much dry ice at gigs that I lost site of my mate at a gig standing next to me, and for the first 4 numbers had convinced myself that I was being entertained by 4 floating floury hats)...doomy vox...and a series of non more black 12" epics all clad in non more black sleeves. And those singles are coooool!
But Andrew Eldritch...the Sister;s Uber Furhrer always insisted that they were a rock n roll band first and last and always. And they were.
In fact they were amphetimine fueled Dark maudlin cousin of the Stooges when they started out. A piss take of arch rock n roll...a kind of speedfreak come down with a drum machine. Suicide..but with romantic post punk geetar flourishes. The four horse mean. Craig Adams (on bass) had a rep for twatting enthusiatic fans with his guitar. And beneath their perma shades, the Sisters were not to be messed with.
Still, the goths loved em and its easy to see why.

First and Last and Always (or FALAA from now on!) is a total rock gothspell of an album. The Sister's in all their guises, have always been fueled by Andrew Eldritch's fierce, visceral intelligence and misanthropy. But say, where Fred Durst would shout in your face about how crap the world is, Eldritch would take you into an alley, spark you a cig, crack a tin, phone Hegel or Kierkegaard than slip a shiv in your ribs. And you'd thank him for it too!

The music on FALAA is split between the writing of Gary Marx (later of Ghost Dance) and the slowly blossming skills of Wayne Hussey. Marx's stuff reflects the solidity of his position in the Sisters; there from the outset, he knew how to deliver the melodic muscle to counter the bass and drum machine axis that powered the mid 80's Sisters gothadoom menace. Lets face it, if Eldritch sang the phone book to you it'd sound like he was reading his own last will and testament. Yet in the title track for example, Marx pulls off a near folky (!) riff that complements the barbs and vitriol and arrogance spuming around it. It's interesting to note that FALAA's music is split right down the middle musically. Side one has Wayne Husseys stuff...practically saying "Ok if you want goth....this is how you do it". Hussey of course went on to sillier things with The Mission, but apparently to this day, despite the vehemence of their falling out, Eldritch rates Hussey as the best guitarist the Sisters had. And he probably is. But you feel Hussey know he's making his mark with his tunes so they;re gonna be big anthems...Walk Away, No Time to Cry (a co-write with the band), Black Planet ( A cool eco-disgust tune) and the total goth opera of Marian (version)....made all the more fucken deadly by Eldritch's intonation of the last verse in his perfect german.
Marx's stuff is perhaps a little more considered, less flouncey, sleazier,,,edgier. Possession, Nine While Nine...and Amphetimine Logic (curiously sometimes just called "Logic" on the sleeve)...all sound like they're about to ask you into a dark room...fuck you and grab your keys on the way out. Quite how he got so shite with Ghost Dance is a mystery.
Of course FALAA like everything under the Sisters name is driven by the spite ridden bookishness of Andrew Eldritch and his only friend Doktor Avalanche. Eldritch is one of the few lyricts that I bother reading the words for. To my mind, the goth uberlord tag has proven a bit of a drag considering his words are SO much better than any band with the Goth tag. In fact a great lyricist period.

So....feeling pretty fucked now....FALAA...a document of a great incarnation of a great idea of a band. Not perfect but it rocks, it rolls, it cruises and beyond the batwings and fishnets (mmm fishnets...on me or her, its that kind of record) it is an afterhours messy, broken glitter, red eyed, mascara'd, fuzzy tongue lick of an album. It makes me feel damaged and dirty....in a good way, of course.

Look beyond the goth....there's a dodgy alleyway waiting for you.


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