I had grandiose plans this morning for a long bike ride but, truthfully, I didn’t feel like tackling the heat again today. Fuck it. You win, Mother Nature. Instead I’m hiding out from the sun in my cool basement with my book, maybe a little Olympic coverage on the boob tube and cuddles with Tina the Cat until this afternoons BBQ for the YMCA volunteers. I have an inevitably long, hot day at the bike mount line with the SunRype TRi-KiDS in Oakville tomorrow anyway, so I may as well enjoy an easy day while I can. Accompanying my easy day today is the ‘Children‘ album by noted 80’s British “Gothsters”, The Mission.
Released in 1988 on Mercury Records, the album spawned two popular singles, ‘Tower of Strength‘ and ‘Beyond the Pale‘. For anybody who came of age in the late 80’s and early 90’s, ‘Tower of Strength‘ will inevitably be among their favorite “make-out” songs.
Yours truly, included.
Kicking off with one of the longest fade-in’s in rock history, the album is a sprawling (hell, to not call any album that starts out with a seven-plus-minute “Intro” song sprawling is just wrong), larger-than-the-sum-of-its-parts affair, with multi-layered arrangements, numerous strings, vocals, guitars, and other instruments on every track, and a indescribable feel that just makes the album seem much longer than it really is. The rough edges are smoothed out, and Wayne Hussey’s 12-string sounds cleaner and more shimmery than before.
As for the songs themselves, the singles obviously stand out, but ‘Fabienne‘, ‘Heat‘, ‘Child’s Play‘, and ‘Wing and a Prayer‘ still rock (albeit in a rather buried-in-production kind of way) and ‘Black Mountain Mist‘ has an unmistakable Led Zeppelin feel. And speaking of Led Zeppelin, it’s really no wonder that this time the Mission let their once subdued love of the rock legends runneth over – John Paul Jones was brought in to produce. The man who gave shape to Jimmy Page’s more sprawling (there’s that word again) epics as bassist and main arranger for Led Zep, Jones not only gives the Mission credibility in the act of bald-faced homage, but gives them a more mature, polished sound, ironing out their changes and shifts, resulting in a sound that is considerably more advanced than that of their previous work.
The album is not without flaws, however. ‘Breathe‘, an interlude, feels a bit tacked on, and the cover of Aerosmith’s ‘Dream On‘ is a questionable choice, to say the least. Some versions of the LP didn’t have this track, and it’s arguable that this one should have been left on the B-side pile. But the biggest flaw of the record is not in the substance as much as in the interpretation of the music itself. On ‘Children‘, the Mission are big, dramatic, and grandiose: the very things that critics made their names giving the band a hard time for. But, so what? The Mission were a big, dramatic, grandiose band whose members weren’t afraid to wear their hearts on their sleeves.
‘Children‘ is the proof of that, for sure.
However, I don’t think Tina the Cat is as keen to make out as, say, my first girlfriend was back in high school. Besides, her cat breathe doesn’t smell as nice.