The Mission - God Is A Bullet
As far as genres go, there can be few currently less popular than late 80s "goth", the genre that eschewed the stereotypical black garb of its forebears for a grander wardrobe of tie-dyed gypsy scarves, velvet pants and armfuls of bangles and bracelets - and that was just the fellas. The Mission, alongside "She Sells Sanctuary"-era The Cult, spearheaded the genre, frontman Wayne Hussey inspiring a fair-sized legion of fans into standing on each other's shoulders and throwing confetti around at gigs .
Hussey began his career as something of a guitar for hire, playing with the likes of Dead Or Alive and The Sisters of Mercy before forming The Mission with Sisters bassist Craig Adams from the ashes of the latter. Success was not immediate but The Mission grew to become one of the UK's biggest 'alternative' acts at a time when reaching the Top 20 was a significant achievement in a pop-dominated market. The band were regular cover stars in the weekly music press; second album Children reached number 2 in the charts and they could fill the likes of Wembley Arena with their Merlot-driven, Led-Zep inspired rock on a good night. Think of them as a Kasabian MkI.
The band has toured - and recorded - in a variety of permutations over the years and continue to maintain a profile in markets like mainland Europe and South America. This new album sees Hussey joined by the likes of All About Eve's Julianne Regan and original Mission guitarist Simon Hinkler in guest slots.
God Is A Bullet is immediately recogniseable as a Mission album - something of a return to their roots compared to some of the more dance-inspired ventures of the 1990s. Hussey's rich baritone immediately sets the tone for the sophisticated, crafted arrangements that probably sit s them alongside the likes of Marillion and their ilk: unfashionable bands appreciated by fans unswayed by the vagaries of the latest trends.
This renewed vigour comes at a price, however. Some of the weaker, more generic numbers would've previously ended up as single b-sides. Here they pad the running time to nearly 70 minutes, almost as if Hussey simply wanted to find them a home. A tighter collection would almost certainly have proved more satisfying - albeit denying the listener the likes of "Grotesque", a heartfelt but clumsy animal-rights-inspired number that closes the album.
Ironically, the highlights are sometimes those that sound least Mission-like: the single "Keep It In The Family" has a Joshua Tree air to it and "Blush" comes straight from the James Dean Bradfield school of driving AOR - and with it an energy not expected from a band celebrating its 21st anniversary this year. Even some of the weaker tracks have sparks of interest, with Hussey and co-guitarist Mark Thwaite concocting intricate melodies and riffs that penetrate the skull long after more cursory listens. Those looking for more classic Mission numbers are well-served by the likes of "Hdshrinkerea" and the ballad "Father", that again has a U2 feel to it.
God Is A Bullet may not be a latter-day triumph, but there's enough decent material at its core to encourage long-time fans to re-acquaint themselves with the band. And if you'd previously dismissed them as a bunch of hippies but now find yourself drawn to "Classic Rock" magazine rather than the NME, worthy of at least a few downloads.