Review Summary: COME HERE I THINK YOU'RE BEAUTIFUL!
1985 was an important year for the development of the so-called "Goth" movement. The Cure added Boris Williams (considered the best drummer The Cure had by many) and Simon Gallup, Robert Smith's yang to his yin. They would go on to release "The Head on the Door", their first taste of commercial success in America. Siouxsie and The Banshees were at the time recording "Tinderbox" considered their finest moment since "Juju", New Order released the follow-up to their magnum opus, the almost equally brilliant album "Low-Life". Bauhaus was disbanded for the time being and would not yet release a terrible reunion album. Daniel Ash, David J, and Kevin Haskins, the original members of Bauhaus went on to make Love and Rockets, the spiritual successor to Bauhaus minus Peter Murphy. What do all of these bands have in common? All of them are considered the forefathers of the so-called goth rock movement that later on influenced the likes of Industrial, Darkwave, and Ambient music to name a few genres. Often overshadowed by the big four in Gothic Rock, Sisters of Mercy is often noted as a prominent hard rock/gothic/darkwave influence among dark music of the 90s and the 2000s.
The Sisters of Mercy actually formed around 1976 and was named after a song by Leonard Cohen of the same name. Not the actual sister herself that Leonard Cohen titled the song after. This first incarnation is not responsible for the album "First and Last and Always". Only being Andrew Eldritch and Gary Marx. The band broke up but reformed in 1981 and lasted until 1985 with the same line-up plus Craig Adams on Bass, Wayne Hussey as an additional guitarist, backup vocals, and the addition of Doktor Avalance, the drum machine Andrew Eldritch was in charge of. The album itself was recorded in 1984 and released in 1985 when this line-up of the band broke-up. What was left in the aftermath is the album "First and Last and Always".
First and Last and Always just like the previous bands mentioned in the introduction is considered a part of the so-called "Dark Culture". The album seems to be reminiscent of Joy Division “Unknown Pleasures” era and The Cure’s gothic trilogy era wordplay. However, most of the songs are traditional chorus-based songs, something that Robert Smith briefly did on Pornography (The Hanging Garden) and would fully utilize on Japanese Whispers and The Top. The theme of these songs on First and Last and Always seem to mostly revolve around the topics of the haunting presence of another, possibly a former lover? (Marian, Possession, First and Last and Always, Nine While Nine and Some Kind of Stranger). A Rock and a Hard Place seem to help strengthen the case of this argument.
"And I didn't have the heart to tell her why."
Who is this her? Is this just another woman in the life of Andrew Eldritch or is it just another song about a breakup? Yet the lyrics of Marian do mention a certain woman, whether this is the actual name of the woman I do not know.
“I hear you calling Marian.”
The way Andrew Eldritch sings these lyrics towards the lower end of his range sends chills down my spine. If the creepy lyrics about a woman metaphorically drowning the lead singer wasn't enough, a part of the song is sung in German. This part seems to help support the earlier claim about the song seeming to be about a woman metaphorically drowning a man.
Was ich kann und was ich könnte
(What I can do and what I could do)
Weiß ich gar nicht mehr
(I just don't know anymore)
Gib mir wieder etwas Schönes
(Give me something beautiful again)
Zieh mich aus dem Meer
(Drag me from the sea)
The woman is killing the lead singer with her separation from him. That is what the song seems to be about. Marian is the woman lost by the singer.
The overall mood of the album is for the most part melancholy with a few light menacing movements (Marian, Some Kind of Stranger). This contributes to the almost breathtaking atmosphere of the album. It is considered a gem among many who listen to "dark music" because of the atmosphere of the album. It gives off this haunting feeling from the first listen of "Black Planet" up to the last song "Some Kind of Stranger" (my favorite song on the album). Andrew Eldritch's voice sends shivers down your spines when he goes from the lower part of his range up to his highs. The song that best describes what I mean is "Some Kind of Stranger" towards the end of the song.
A noticeable thing about this album is how catchy this album is compared to most of the big four’s early catalog. All songs do have choruses and this is for the most part why the songs are more catchy than the early catalog of the big four of proto-goth because a lot of songs from these bands did not contain choruses (except for maybe Siouxsie and The Banshee and Bauhaus). However, Eldritch would only write more catchy material on the next album from The Sisters of Mercy.
Overall, if anyone has any remote interest in moody music, dark music, gothic tendencies of any sorts, give this album a listen. You will mostly not be disappointed by the depressing mood of this album.