The Sisters of Mercy

[BBC Sessions 1982 - 1984 sleeve]"BBC Sessions 1982 - 1984" (Album, 2021)

BBC Records

It's hard to believe that hardened Sister's fans won't already have these songs in various forms (I have them on cassette, vinyl, CD and mp3 in various iterations), but it's nice to have a complete and re-mastered version (although I'm not entirely sure it's all the BBC sessions – I have a vinyl bootleg which has versions of Gimme Shelter and Adrenochrome that claim to be BBC radio sessions).

Upwards of £50.00 for 3 sides of vinyl is frankly, taking the fucking piss, but I was in a bad mood and needed cheering up when I stumbled upon a cache of copies in SE London, so I bought it anyway. The packaging is exactly right – a classic Sisters cover, with the nice touch that even the inside of the cover is black.

The first Peel session is clearly the best, featuring as it does the classic 'MKI' line up before that hippy from Dead or Alive ruined everything. Hearing it on Peel's show was my first proper introduction to The Sisters (I'd seen them supporting UK Decay at The Clarendon prior to this, but it was very lacklustre performance and I didn't take much notice), and I played it over and over again on my shitty little tape deck long before I got around to buying any of the records.

Of main interest is Good Things, one of the few songs that never previously got an official release, and it was always my favourite of their early material. Dystopian in the extreme, it's one of their most political songs, and has a fantastic driving bass line that wouldn't sound out of place in an early Motorhead set. It also contains one of Eldritch's finest lines – "Out there snipers work the ridges, building bombs and blowing bridges/ Out there on a darkened road, the lines are dead, and the cars explode."

The original of Jolene is one of my favourite songs ever, so I always wanted the Sisters version to be as great as their other covers (and the really did have a way with covers), but it just doesn’t work, the phase/ delay on the guitar lose the tune, and all in all, it's a wasted opportunity. The only major disappointment of the LP (apart from the fucking price).

The rest of it, as you might imagine, is slightly different versions of the songs you know and love from your Sisters collection.

The sound has been cleaned up and sounds pin sharp. However, if you've been used to listening to bootlegs taken from ropey old cassettes, you may find the loss of wow, flutter, his and other sundry 'defects' intrinsic to the bootlegger's art a bit of a disappointment. It all sounds a bit polite and un-gnarly in its cleaned-up form, whether this is a loss or a gain depends on where you stand re: Signal to Noise ratios. I lean towards the Noise end of the spectrum, so my disappointment may not be yours, and it does after all deliver on the promise of the title.

If you're a Sisters collector none of the above will matter, and you’ve probably already got a copy (although for those sad enough to keep it mint in the shrink-wrap, I suppose my opinion may make you feel better about never actually playing it).

8/10 for the songs, 8/10 for the packaging, but 5/10 for the egregious price.

Nicky Hydra (July 2021)