Vision Thing

The Sisters Of Mercy

Warner, 1990

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


The final studio album from the Sisters Of Mercy – which, at this point, was just Andrew Eldritch and a new cast of hired hands – is not all that different from Floodland. It’s just louder, looser, more repetitive, and more soulless. It’s also fun and catchy when you’re in the mood…and if “fun” isn’t a term one would normally associate with a Gothic rock band, it fits here.

More than the first two albums, Vision Thing is a product of its time in both lyrical bent (jabs at President George H. W. Bush and American television) and the huge stadium-rock/electronic sound. The drum machines are in full effect, the squalling arena-rock guitars bring to mind any hair metal band you’d care to name, and Eldritch’s toneless, growling vocals narrate each song, but there isn’t really much going on once you get the initial drift of each song. To put it bluntly, the songs pretty much state their themes in the first minute, then repeat them for another three to seven minutes until Eldritch gets bored and fades the track out.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

“When You Don’t See Me” is probably the worst offender in the ‘80s Kinda Goofy Hair Metal entry, sounding almost exactly like Dio’s “Rainbow In The Dark” in the introduction, to the point where it was jarring to hear Eldritch’s growl instead of Dio’s keening “When there’s lightning…” Along the same lines (but to a lesser extent) is the bright title song, whose pristine production suggests a gentler Guns ‘N’ Roses as sung by Heroes-era Bowie. It’s pretty far from the band’s garage-punk roots.

That said, as with a lot of ‘80s rock, about half of the songs are fun and catchy, and those repetitive passages can work their way into your conscious and make you want to dance and/or crank up the stereo. “Vision Thing” is a good way to start things off, but “Doctor Jeep” is the prime example, its fast beats accompanied by a stinging guitar topline and the occasional guitar squall underneath.

The eight-minute “More” is the album’s focal point and was a hit on college radio; it breaks from the template a bit with the addition of piano and a repetitive synthesized string riff in the long introduction, female backing vocals in the chorus, and a long fadeout that slowly strips away each instrument. It firmly establishes what this band (Eldritch in particular) was capable of, making the samey songwriting of some of the other songs even more frustrating. In particular, “Ribbons” is pretty darn irritating and both “Detonation Boulevard” and the slower “Something Fast” are uneven at best. “I Was Wrong” also breaks from the pack with an acoustic guitar, actual dynamics, a point to the lyrics, and the sort of Leonard Cohen/Talking Heads/Bowie approach that remains an undercurrent here, no matter how much electronic gloss and polish is plastered on top.

Vision Thing is regarded to be the weakest of the Sisters’ three albums. After this, Eldritch quit recording and stuck to live performances. It leaves this release as a frustrating, inconsistent, danceable, and occasionally brilliant (especially the whole of Side Two, or the final three songs) piece of work.

Rating: B-

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