The Sisterhood – Gift – Round 35 – Graham’s Choice

The Sisterhood - Gift
Inspired by listening to Fever Ray in previous round I decided to probe the darker regions of my album collection. Given my difficulties with modern day dance/electro I thought I should also explore something from when I used to frequent the New Wave “club scene”, as I’m far too old to have anything to do with that sort of thing now.

I brought this little curio along, prompted to some extent by the back story behind the album itself. I suppose I should have saved this for the theme night of “spiteful albums released as a commercial weapon”, but what the heck!

I bought this in 1986, because basically I would have bought anything related to the Sisters of Mercy at that time. Behind the dry ice and the darkness, there was a great live show and a few decent tunes. However the original band imploded leaving Andrew Eldritch the rest of the band (which later became The Mission), with fans baying for output and financial commitments to existing record and publishing deals. It all gets a bit complicated there and the full story is here

Simply put Eldritch managed to retain the original Sisters name, stop the rest of the band calling themselves The Sisterhood and meet his financial commitments with the release of this album. I can’t say I noticed it was apparently proto-techno/dark wave when I bought it. But when some of these tracks, like this, were playing in nightclubs,  I was probably too drunk to care. There are vague hints of the sound of the Sisters debut, ‘First and Last and Always’, though the harsh electro sound is a mile away from their original sound. Eldritch’s wish to move away from guitar based songs led to the original band’s demise. Listening to this again 26 years later (yikes!) I’m thinking Mr Eldritch was experimenting with something quite interesting. However one listen to the official Sisters follow up, ‘Floodland’, was enough for me to drop them immediately, as what had been initially interesting had transformed itself into some pumped up and bombastic nonsense inspired by Jim Steinman (or was it Todd Rundgren?).

From that point on I reverted back to The Mission and became a part-time ‘Eskimo’. Anyway if nothing else, my fellow members are now thoroughly familiar with the operating manual for an AK47 and they have me to thank for that.

Nick listened: About half of this was absolutely fantastic; really dark, compelling synthetic grooves that segued perfectly on from The Knife and which reminded me of so many things, from 90s-onwards dance music to 70s krautrock and kosmische to post-millennial indie-goes-electro. The other half of it wasn’t particularly different or bad, it just didn’t quite find the beats or moods that the best tracks achieved (the opener was splendid, as was the one about building an AK-47). Really glad I’ve heard it – I had absolutely no idea it existed before the other night.

Rob Listened: Graham’s uncanny knack for picking a record none of us know but which sits on the equidistant between two of our other choices continues. None of us had heard of The Sisterhood and the petty hilarity of its origin, yet it sat as an almost perfect buffer between ‘Silent Shout’ and ‘The Money Store’, giving us pause to reflect on similar records created as fillers, tests or contractual get-outs, which are now held up as high art or futurist classics. ‘Gift’ isn’t quite in that league but, tonight at least, it was a fun listen.

Tom Listened: The trouble with getting to know a group at the bum end of their career is that the rest of their catalogue can get tarred with the same brush….’better to burn out than to fade away’, as Neil Young (ironically as it turned out) put it. So when Graham produced something with the word ‘sister’ on the cover my immediate instinct was to dive for cover. However, Gift turned out to be more interesting and palatable than I initially feared – sonically it was a complete surprise to me, lengthy grooves, not too much doom and gloom and, although a couple of tracks towards the end of the album dragged a little, I enjoyed the listen in the main.

As Rob has stated, Gift was an inspired companion to Silent Shout and The Money Store and comparing them made us wonder as to whether it’s present day technology or musical vision or a combination of both that is leading to work that is so much more complex, busy and intricate than that of 25 years ago. Whatever, Gift sounded like the musical equivalent of the ZX81 in comparison which is not necessarily a bad thing per se…just different.


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