The Sisters Of Mercy: ‘Floodland’ Revisited: A look back at The Sisters’ grandiose goth masterpiece on its 30th anniversary.
Note: this post originally appeared in 2013. It has been updated.
I recently wrote about why ‘The World’s End’ soundtrack rocks.
Given the renewed interest in the tune, let’s look back at the album that featured the single. That would be 1987’s Floodland, which came out in my high school years.
Slick and moody, with a dystopian soundtrack atmosphere, it joined pop-smarts with ethereal arrangements.
The Sisters previous released was First, Last And Always, but the band fractured after recording. Guitarist Wayne Hussey and bassist Craig Adams left to form the Mission UK. But vocalist and songwriter Andrew Eldritch soldiered on, partnering with bassist Patricia Morrison and producer Jim Steinman to work on Floodland.
Steinman seemed an odd choice; he’d previously produced albums for Meat Loaf and Bonnie Tyler. But somehow his grandiose style was a perfect fit, even if he radically altered Eldritch’s sound.
His influence also provided a much larger budget than the band’s début. This allowed for the glorious excess on This Corrosion, which boasted 40 choir members and 6 background vocalists. Eldritch’s noted; We had an awful lot of people on the record, made a very loud noise. Never had so many people on a record before. Why? I really don’t know. It seemed like a good idea at the time to have 40 people singing at once. I’ve no idea why. […] Every time you think to yourself ‘Do we really want to go this far?’ and you say to Jim, ‘Jim, are you sure about this?’ and anybody else will go ‘Don’t do it!’, Jim goes ‘More! More! More people, singing!’. It works.
It’s pompous yet winning sound providing stark counterpoint with his croaking, undead vocal style.
The biting lyrics referenced ex-band mate Hussey, who’s flowery lyrical style annoyed Eldritch;
Giving out and in
Selling the don’t belong
Well, what do you say
D’you have a word for giving away?
Got a song for me?
The album boasted other sonic delights; second single , Lucretia My Reflection had a hypnotic serpentine bass-line. Dominion/Mother Russia had churning, dark majesty.
And 1959‘s mournful piano arrangement showcased the vulnerable side of Eldritch’s poetic prose:
Which way the wind blows
In nineteen fifty-nine
And the wind blows still
And the wind blows wild again
For a little child can never kill this clean
And it feels like me today
The album’s title was informed by his lyrics, as he noted to Sound Magazine: I just wrote the songs and it’s only afterwards that you think ‘My God, there’s water all the way through this.’ It’s obviously got a lot to do with living here, because Hamburg’s full of water.
Floodland made sizable waves in the alternative market, and its videos were in regular rotation on MTV’s 120 Minutes. The band’s popularity steadily escalated.
But it was short-lived. Follow-up album Vision Thing had a hit single with More, but its long gestating production annoyed Elektra label execs. Eldritch got annoyed with their interference, so much so that his next album was a tossed-off joke, just to get out of his record contract.
For whatever reason, he tired of recording, but still tours occasionally. It seems he’s retreated from wanting to be a rock star on a bigger stage. A new album seems a lost cause. But he made three solid albums, and Floodland remains a compelling listen all these years later.
If you’d like to own Floodland on iTunes, just click below to order:
And check out these previous installments of albums revisited: