And the dance goes on

In remembrance of the glory days of one of Britain’s foremost gothic rock bands, The Mission. This feature was first published on the Sunday Times of Malta’s Culture section. 

Wayne HusseyWayne Hussey

As far as rock’n’roll goes, it’s very difficult to match up with Wayne Hussey, one of Britain’s enfants terribles of music.

Back in the late 1980s, together with a few others, Hussey was one of those musicians responsible for bringing back the whole sex, drugs and some more sex thing to a music scene that had become somewhat over-sanitised, perhaps as a response to the punk and Madchester mayhem that had dominated the 1970s.

Then came The Mission, which Hussey started after falling out with Sisters of Mercy founder Andrew Eldritch and quitting the band (together with third member Craig Adams).

The Mission were as different to the indie kings that they were to displace as a clavichord is to an Ableton synth. Following the Eldritch school of thought, the new band was all about defying the musical status quo and leaving a mark. It didn’t matter whether you loved them or hated them; if you were involved in the British music scene back then, you definitely had an opinion about them.

Hussey’s approach to the band reflects his approach to life. Upon first quitting Sisters, his first instinct was to thumb his nose in a not-so-subtle manner at Eldritch by calling his and Adams’s new band The Sisterhood. Eldritch was unamused, legal action was threatened and thus The Mission – which also found its inspiration in an unfinished album, titled Left on a Mission and Revenge, he had been working on for Sisters – was born.

The Mission can be said to have continued where Sisters left off. In the meantime, Sisters (which Eldritch continued, periodically changing the rest of the band members) started losing its momentum bereft of one of its strongest components.

The Hussey years were to be the best years of Sisters. The years when the album First and Last and Always, considered a seminal album in the gothic rock genre and arguably the band’s biggest success, was released.

This cult following has survived across two decades

Hussey took the album’s guitar and bass-heavy sound with him. With the advent of The Mission, a new cult following was born. And with good reason. The band’s debut single, Serpent’s Kiss (released under The Sisterhood name) brought together two of Britain’s musical elite of the time, Red Lorry Yellow Lorry drummer Mick Brown and Pulp guitarist Simon Hinkler and attracted attention immediately.

The Mission, featuring Wayne Hussey, in concert. Photo: Ramona DeparesThe Mission, featuring Wayne Hussey, in concert. Photo: Ramona Depares

Twelve albums followed and were released over three decades. Throughout the 1980s, every album release included more than one Top 40 hit. And, judging by the evidence when I attended a London concert by the band last year, this cult following has survived across two decades. And so has Hussey’s legendary attitude, one that his fans love. Their performance at the 02 Academy last December showed that the band still has what it takes to keep fans of the genre spellbound.

The audience was given a tour de force that covered the whole range of the band’s albums. The old favourites were all present, from Bloodbrother, Wasteland and Severina from debut album God’s Own Medicine to Naked and Savage from The Crystal Ocean, Beyond the Pale and Tower of Strength from Children and Butterfly on a Wheel and Deliverance from Carved in Sand. The latter, especially, drove the crowd wild. Newer releases were also represented by Hands Across the Ocean, Tower of Strength and The Girl in a Fur Skin Rug.

Then came Hussey’s venture into solo albums, bringing with it a considerably maturer style, with the musician favouring less punk, electronic and goth and more the acoustic side of things.

The first solo offering, Bare, which came almost a decade ago, was described in interviews by the singer himself as a “reworking of lesser-known The Mission songs”. The second solo album, released earlier this year and titled Songs of Candlelight and Razorblades, is a more independent foray.

As for the setlist for his per-formance in Malta – whether Hussey will focus on his solo material or also include hits from The Mission – this is anyone’s guess. As he put it in most of the interviews he gave, everything depends on his mood and on the vibe.

Still, whatever the set list contains, looks like it’s set to be a good end-of-year for lovers of gothic rock in Malta.