Back in the day, before My Chemical Romance, Fall Out Boy and The Horrors, before Emo and Nu-Goth and Scary Kids, there was The Mission. They back-combed their hair, encouraged boys to wear eyeliner, black nail-varnish and skinny jeans, and they RULED. With songs such as Butterfly On A Wheel and Tower Of Strength, The Mish invented Emo before Pete Wentz was even born and Gerard Way was still in grade school. And they put Leeds on the music map.
Later on they had a few bad days with plaid shirts, bootlace ties and cowboy hats but while we cringed at the time, in the long run you can argue that they started the country/Goth crossover that eventually made it acceptable for Johnny Cash to cover Depeche Mode and even paved the way for the deep, dark blues of bands like the White Stripes. Eighth track Father is the kind of dark, brooding slow-burner whose forebears inspired Smog and Will Oldham. Okay, maybe I’m pushing it with the last one but The Mission were damn important in the late 80s. A sea of black amid the day-glo slogan t-shirts of Wham! they were a last bastion of hope as the New Romantic survivors matured into stadium dinosaurs or retreated into club electro and we waited patiently for Grunge and Britpop to arrive.
Born out of Andrew Eldritch’s Sisters of Mercy, one of the defining bands of the first wave of Goth, they’ve never really gone away since their debut long-player God’s Own Medicine in 1987, but this is their first studio album in six years and marks 21 years since frontman Wayne Hussey (the only constant throughout that time, though original guitarist Simon Hinkler plucks the strings on Grotesque; All About Eve vocalist Julianne Regan, another early Mish collaborator, is also back for the ride) split from the Sisters.
So, God Is A Bullet can’t really be described as a comeback album but it is a special occasion none the less. In the midst of a revival of all things Goth and staking a good claim for being the true godfather of Emo (check out the last line of Belladonna – “I hate you” – and song titles such as To Love And To Kill With The Very Same Hand, if you don’t believe me), it’s a timely reminder of why we loved them in the first place.
From spectral and lovely opening track, Still Deep Waters, a soundtrack for a haunted night, Hussey is on top form, with emotional, dark and pounding rock that will be just what his still-fanatical following wants. The slower tempo of Aquarius And Gemini works particularly well under his familiar baritone, segueing between funereal march and faster choruses in a way that MCR will cry and die for. Blush reminds how they were never miserable amid the blackness, and Chinese Burn in particular bridges the gap between their glory days and the new musical climate perfectly. They sound simultaneously fresh and familiar on tracks like Dumb and Absolution, keepers of a musical legacy today’s kids are only just rediscovering.
You can hear more of today’s bands in this album than you might expect if you listen closely enough, as well as the ones Hussey took his own influence from and the ones with whom notes, riffs and ideas have been interchangeable over the years. Hdshrinkerea could lead you to Nine Inch Nails (as well as being one of the songs most reminiscent of early Mish), Absolution to Depeche Mode. Check out those string arrangements on Draped In Red, too, as well as on album closer Grotesque.
In fact, just close your eyes, lie back and pretend you’re still a 17-year-old art student completely unaware that listening to this music will mean that in 20 years time, you will fall in love with My Chemical Romance without an ounce of shame. God, it’s good to have them back.