Wednesday 7 August 2013

Waiting For Eldritch

In Beckett's 'Waiting for Godot', the characters are killing time and pondering the futility of existence whilst awaiting the arrival of 'Godot', a figure who never actually does. There is nothing left to do but indulge in absurdity, and wait. “Let's go." "We can't." "Why not?" "We're waiting for Godot.” In a way, this is like the gothic rock scene awaiting for the return of the Sisters of Mercy.

This month marks 20 years since the last new Sisters of Mercy release - 'Under The Gun' , the single which accompanied the tantalisingly titled 'Volume 1' of their greatest hits. Their three studio albums were released over a five year period which ended in 1990. We are as far away from that single as that single was from 'Dark Side of the Moon'. We are actually as far away from that single as 'Dark Side of the Moon' was from 'Rock Around the Clock'.

Of course, in one sense Eldritch & Co have never gone away. They remain a formidable touring outfit, with Von keeping himself vital by acquiring new blood and young talent, in the best vampiric tradition. The Sisters do actually exist, and their existence can be verified by several reliable sources. But, in another sense we are all still awaiting their return and feeling their absence.

And of course it's not just the music we miss but also the sense of realpolitik and drama that accompanied the deeds of Spiggy in his pomp. Like greeting Wayne Hussey and Craig Adams backstage at a Sisters' gig at Wembley Arena with the words 'If only our lawyers could see us now!" Or the doomed cross-countercultural mission to break down racial & musical barriers by touring the US with Public Enemy (which saw even Chuck D go on the record that Eldritch was 'a really cool guy'). So when Von retreated from the scene, he took his urbane wit and powerplay with him. Modern goth acts rarely give such good value.

However, by pining for them we miss the point. What Eldritch did when he began the twenty-year hiatus from the studio was to begin to sow the seeds of the Sisters' immortality. Much like The Party in Orwell's 1984, the Sisters of Mercy are now a self-perpetuating brand; their legacy is hewn in the very rock of Goth. Some bands have taken on a life of their own over the past twenty years, to the extent that the logos of the Ramones, David Bowie or Guns & Roses are staples of high street fashion. The Sisters are the closest in the goth rock pantheon to a band that has such a legendary appeal. They are now effectively a stadium goth act, with Eldritch acting as the steward' of their back catalogue in the classic style – and without releasing anything as embarrassing as 'Chinese Democracy' either.

So while we were dreaming of the old-fashioned world of musical treadmills and the tour-album-tour cycle, Eldritch got his head round the post-modern nature of the 21st century music industry before the rest of the pack. The Sisters have joined the immortals. We may never see their like again.

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