Thursday, August 29, 2013

FIRST IMPRESSION: The Mission – The Brightest Light

Wayne Hussey’s long-running band The Mission (“U.K.” appended for these American shores) are back with their first album of new music since 2007’s “God Is a Bullet” and it is a doozy!  Eschewing the glossy, keyboard-laden gossamer that marred many of their less-heralded late-90s and early-aughts works, “The Brightest Light” is the sound of a band revitalized despite their age and out for blood. Original members Simon Hinkler and Craig Adams return for the first time since 1990’s “Carved In Sand” and while the album doesn’t necessarily hearken back sonically to early masterworks like “Children” and “God’s Own Medicine”, the playing is looser and rawer than it has been in literally decades.  Hinkler’s guitar roars in a way that former collaborator Mark Gemini-Thwaite (himself a stellar axeman) wasn’t able to muster in his tenure working with Hussey, and Adams sympathetic low-end is the perfect foil for new drummer Mike Kelly who pounds as well as he swings.  Daevid Allen’s production keeps everything nicely separated and allows all of the instruments to breathe while still sounding “live”.

This being the Mission, though, it’s Wayne Hussey’s show and he has unleashed some of his darkest, roughest lyrics ever. His voice, once a wavering bleat, has roughened into a gruff gnarl that serves these dirty songs well.  He literally snarls his way through album-highlight “Everything But the Squeal”, and it’s truly frightening and visceral.  Likewise, the bare-knuckle brawn of the chugging “Drag” kicks up more dust than most bands half their age.  It’s inspiring to see a band this seasoned acknowledge their mortality (the first lyrics on the album are “When you get to my age, the candles cost more than the cake / It’s not the white powder anymore that’s keeping me awake”) and still be credibly tough without embarrassing themselves.  Hussy and company also successfully stretch the boundaries of the Mission’s sound; the spritely, acoustic-based “Just Another Pawn in Your Game” could be a Ryan Adams B-side and houses the strongest melody on the album.

Not all of it works – the album clocks in at over an hour and sags a bit with several  7-minute-plus cuts - but this the Mission after all, and grandiose bloat is the name of the game a bit, innit?  Overall, it’s a damn fine return from a band that has been sidelined and relegated to “second-tier” status amongst all but the faithful.  Keep kicking arse, gents!

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