The Sisters of Mercy

I just read a quite scathing review that someone left on The Sister of Mercy’s “Floodland” album from 1987. Quite obviously, I didn’t agree with the negative criticism because… well, I’ve been there. I bought that album after I heard “This Corrosion” and saw the video. It was 1987, I was 16. And I was hooked. I bought the Floodland album, and I love it, to this day.

I do have to say that I like the slightly shorter 12″ single version of This Corrosion better. The album version is too long and the way it begins just doesn’t sound right. 🙂

Which shines an interesting light on taste, and how time may or may not change it. I still love Floodland, but there’s plenty of other music which I liked at the time, and find annoying, ridiculous or embarrassing today. Don’t ask… 😉

I guess this explains the reaction that I have quite often when someone mentions or plays “this total classic from this and that era” when I don’t already know it: just a shrug (I guess I could be a dick and write scathing reviews then too, but I don’t). It’s hard to appreciate something that sounds old and dated and “out of sync” with my current taste, and perhaps even our time. I guess there has been a time for certain music in our lives, and then we moved on.

Taste evolves. I guess it’s actually a small and logical step from Sisters to dark ambient. Throw any other Sisters-like 80ies wave/goth pop at me, and I probably wouldn’t like it either. But Sisters? Maybe they’re cheesy, tacky, cliched. But they’re sacred. :-} Taste is a funny thing.

The Floodland era Sisters sound is dark, dramatic, somewhat desperate, disenchanted – and that way, enchanting in itself. I guess that’s what makes Sisters so appealing for me, after all. I listened to Floodland on the way home from a private goa trance party in the mid 90s, totally disillusioned because I learned there how “peace, love, unity, respect” (PLUR) was just a hollow phrase – most people were simply totally spaced out from either shrooms or LSD, and that was it. There was no community, there was no partying and happiness together, there were just plenty of zombies on the dancefloor. I cried a little bit to “Driven Like the Snow” because in that moment, it made so much sense. And all was good then. Floodland was the dark soundtrack to my disenchantment. Simply perfect.

Music resonates on so many levels, it’s more than just the sounds of the instruments and the voice and the words of the lyrics.

FWIW, here’s the Sisters’ take on Hot Chocolate’s “Emma” and I can’t help it – this is really what it should sound like (this cover version appears on the “remastered extended deluxe edition” of Floodland, finally making it available in CD quality).

While looking at stuff for this post, I also learned that Ofra Haza (Temple of Love

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5 Comments

  1. Nice, thoughtful post. I’ve never heard of this group (no surprise there) but will have to give a listen to some other tracks. What a treat to hear an alternate version of “Emma.” I don’t know if I’d go so far as to say I prefer it to the original, but I prefer parts of it. I always liked that song and a former friend and I used to listen to it quite a bit. Thanks for the treat!

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    1. Whatever version you heard first will be your preference, of course. 🙂 For me, the darker and more intense interpretation makes more sense together with the story. Hot Chocolate’s sweet & laid back playing is an odd match to that IMHO.

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  2. I also liked the darker, more intense music. My preference is for the original vocals. This version was a little to “Bowie” for me, (though I like Bowie – in doses). It is hard to usurp the version you originally liked, naturally – but not impossible.

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    1. Andrew Eldritch’s voice is one of the reasons why I love Sisters. 🙂 I’m amazed how clear and audible it is in the mix – pretty awesome for the bass/baritone range that he sings in. Interesting to hear that you find it similar to Bowie – that never occurred to me but now that you mention it I can hear/understand that. I think Eldritch has found the limit of sounding dark without sounding ridiculous like some death/occult metal bands.

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  3. I did appreciate that he was able to pull of the lyrics without sounding like a poser. A song like that could easily slip into parody, but it didn’t. One of the reasons a lot of people are put off by Bowie is that he’s so theatrical sounding. I actually like the drama, but only in limited doses. In truth, I like most things in limited doses. 🙂

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