All this week we're going to look back over albums from undeniable goth icons and talk about their failures.
I have a feeling this one is going to get me into trouble, but hear me out, OK?
Both music editor Chris Gray and I agreed that the debut Sisters of Mercy album First and Last and Always was simply the greatest goth album in existence. While we were compiling the list that it topped, we both confessed that we preferred Floodland as a work, even though FALAA is clearly the better and more influential album.
So now, let's talk about Floodland, the first album Andrew Eldritch put out after the departure of Wayne Hussey and Craig Adams to form The Mission. It's just a spellbinding work that succeeds not only as a dance single generator with "Dominion/Mother Russia, "Lucretia, My Reflection," and of course and forever "This Corrision," but also a driving narrative opus that moves along magically throughout it's length like a Del James short story.
That's what Floodland was in 1987. Then Eldritch, ever the monomaniac, fired a bunch of people and birthed Vision Thing in 1990 through a hard and painful labor. Of the three Sisters albums it remains the worst, at least until Uncle Andy finally stops pouting at the recording industry and gives us the album for which we've been waiting for 25 years and can in no way live up to expectations.
On the surface, Vision Thing is great. It's certainly listenable. "Something Fast" is my favorite Sisters slow number, and "When You Don't See Me" always packs the dance floor. As a singles generator, it's better than Floodland.
However, once you peel back the surface you realize that the album is completely empty. Obstinately it was inspired by the policies of the George Bush Sr. administration, something that we can look back on with hindsight and say was heaps better than some of the crap we're living through now.
But OK, so Eldritch was getting political. That's cool enough, but after literally hearing this entire album over a dozen times from front to back I can sadly conclude that it isn't really about anything at all. The lyrics are just a random collection of political buzzwords meant to invoke emotions without having any real substance behind them at all. Andrew Elritch invented the obnoxious political meme before the internet even happened.
"Detonation Boulevard," "Dr. Jeep," all these songs try to capture the turmoil that was really going on in the world at the time, with driving guitar lines and a more industrial sound, but the feeling just isn't there.
Don't get me wrong, Eldritch is a master of gibberish lyrics, but Floodland at least sounds likes it's about something. It feels like a personal journey somewhere, where Vision Thing is just someone shouting at us like a coked up poly-sci major at a spring-break party.
Vision Thing is mostly disappointing because in a way it's both the last word and the middle of a sentence. Since 1993, Eldritch has waged an endless war against the recording industry, preferring to play live and never release another album or even singles. He's all on his own now. He could drop something on iTunes tomorrow and a million goths would eat it up. All he has to do is look at the state of Trent Reznor and see exactly where he could be.
But that's Uncle Andy for you, as contrary as he is a genius. All we have left of him was a stutter of a political, pissed-off throwaway third album. Every time I hear Vision Thing all I can do is shake my head and wonder why a man so possessed of such singular dark brilliance would stop here.
In the end, Vision Thing was a cobbled-together effort with none of the majesty that marked the beginning of The Sisters. It's almost petulant, and a poor note to go out on.