The Sisters of Mercy | Happy 25th Birthday Vision Thing

[dropcap]Vision[/dropcap] Thing is likely the most controversial album of Andrew Eldritch‘s The Sisters of Mercy. After briefly disbanding in 1985, the end of the arguably best TSOM line up with Wayne Hussey, Gary Marx and Craig Adams, and after the offshoot The Sisterhood – a band that has solely been founded to secure Andrew Eldritch’s rights to use that particular name. Eventually, he gathered new musicians and went on to some considerable commerical success and influence on numerous bands that copied The Sisters of Mercy’s 1985 masterpiece and eternal milestone First and Last and Always or 1987’s Floodland. While First and Last and Always was a real band effort, Andrew Eldritch can be easily considered as the driving force behind the two successors. While Floodland, the second album, recorded (or not) with Patricia Morrison (Ex-Fur Bible, Ex-The Gun Club) is generally considered as an outstanding album, a classic. 1990’s Vision Thing, recorded with Ex-Sigue Sigue Sputnik bass player Tony James, Hamburg-based guitarist Andreas Bruhn, Tim Bricheno and Doktor Avalanche, separated the Sisters fandom into two different groups: Those who loved it and those who hated it. Those who love it seem to be predominantly German.

Personally, I deeply love Vision Thing, and the 25th anniversary of this outstanding album is a very good reason to look at the album a little closer and explain why I love it. There are numerous reasons; one could be that I am German, which means that I just do (I will try to get more info why Germans love Vision Thing so much from the editor). Clearly, the album is a step far away from the band’s prior audience; the Goths loved the bombastic tunes of Floodland, co-produced by Meat Loaf collaborator Jim Steinman, and maybe Patricia Morrison’s Morticia Addams-like appearance a little more than the music whereas First and Last and Always is the blueprint for a considerable number of Gothic Rock bands of very differing quality. Vision Thing made a cut and introduced a sound that openly praises Motörhead or Killing Joke and stripped off all the bombast elements that made Floodland a baroque effort, gothick as a brick; nevertheless, the band proved to be a collective of excellent songwriters, and Andrew Eldritch, Tony James and Andreas Bruhn proved to be an excellently functioning collective.

Songs like Vision Thing, Ribbons, Something Fast or I Was Wrong, and the single More, co-written by Jim Steinman, are long-lasting tracks that are hard to resist. But why is Vision Thing considered to be the least favorite TSOM studio album of many, many fans of the band? Arguably, because of the change in the musical direction. While Andrew Eldritch’s love for Rock and Heavy Metal never really a secret, he embraced those styles more than ever on his likely last studio album, a direction that not many of his Goth fans would follow; we can certainly say that the style of songs like When You Don’t See Me or the title track owes more to Motörhead and Billy Idol (not that bad, eh?) than many Goth Rockers with their fancy hats were willing to tolerate – and openly distancing himself from the Goth crowd on the infamous Off Beat interview certainly didn’t make him too much friends, despite the interview is quite a piece of his own, displaying Andrew Eldritch’s cynical, dry and low-key apperance that resembles Lou Reed’s black leather days. Steven Sutherland of Melody Maker wasn’t wrong when he compared Vision Thing to a “self-inflicted bruise”, showing the bitterness of Andrew at that time that made the album somewhat hard to swallow for many fans.

But, call it the blessing or curse of late birth (I was born when Temple of Love 1992 was current), I cannot really see the debates that have been fought, I am relying on research and my ears and being spoiled by numerous Sisters gigs I throughoutly enjoyed. For me, Vision Thing isn’t a mistake, for me, the anecdotes are actually just anecdotes instead of piss taking; the effort Andrew Eldritch makes at that time to piss off the Goth Crowd is not news. My favourite band certainly did not help bonding me to the roots I do not openly praise (I looked like a toilet brush with crimped hair). Of course, I grew up with A Slight Case of Overbombing and this compilation album indeed shaped my image of the band; the first song I’ve heard is Vision Thing, and that’s what The Sisters of Mercy are about for me. The Sisters of Mercy are not a Goth band, never have been – they were at the wrong place at the right time or in the right place at the wrong time; they mashed together some influences like Suicide, Motörhead or Killing Joke, Joy Division or The Stooges (everybody loves The Stooges) and 80s era Iggy Pop (Blah Blah Blah).

Can we thus call Vision Thing the best The Sisters of Mercy album? Maybe not but it is among the top three albums TSOM ever released. Still, we do speak about a highly controversial album, something that certainly did the trick for me. Vision Thing is maybe the track that the band did not manage to write in the Eldritch-Marx-Adams line up and it was virtually impossible to find something that heavy from the Hussey phase; maybe Vision Thing is what you love about The Sisters of Mercy’s early singles that comes in a highly polished form, something that is not even remotely contemporary. Still, I highly encourage you to give this album a new chance today. It is allowed to drink since four years, being around a quarter of a century. Certainly, the low tempo tracks on that album are the best The Sisters of Mercy low tempo tracks they ever wrote; and it is still somewhat absurd to hear Andrew Eldritch sing about “motherfuckers”. But he’s old enough to do so.

Letting the album blast through my speakers once again, I can only say – Happy Birthday, Vision Thing, you utterly groovy bastard.