7 Great Deep Cuts from The Sisters of Mercy

Eternally led by the grim-looking, brooding frontman Andrew Eldritch through its different lineup permutations, British gothfathers The Sisters of Mercy released only three studio albums during their decade-long recording career. But they produced a lot of classic tracks and helped lay the foundation for the classic goth sound that inspired legions of disciples. (There is also a distinct irony in that statement since Eldritch distanced himself from the association.)

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While many people know such well-known cuts as “This Corrosion,” “Lucretia My Reflection,” and “Temple of Love,” there are many other great nuggets to be found deeper in their catalog. In fact, the group released two to three albums worth of singles tracks and B-sides during the 1980s that make their output larger and richer. Here are seven Sisters selections to savor.

“Train,” from Body and Soul EP (1984)

This song has one of the most distinctive guitar sounds of any Goth song out there; it almost sounds like a cross between a six-string and a harpsichord. It’s also an early example of how the Sisters knew how to work a groove and ride a vibe. Their songwriting was always rather stripped down and straightforward, and this propulsive rocker has a quickly addicting sound that lends itself to repeat listens.

“On the Wire,” from Walk Away EP (1984)

This is a baleful song that would be perfect for the end credits of an Italian giallo film, and it’s one of those gritty tracks that metalheads can appreciate too. It’s anxious and dissonant as Eldritch sings: I don’t sleep so I don’t dream / So I don’t wake up frightened / Everything is what it seems if you look deep enough tonight and see / on the wire. It’s one of their best B-sides and perfect for jittery late-night listening when you’re dealing with existential angst.

“Blood Money,” from No Time to Cry single (1985)

Another angsty track with impressionistic lyrics, “Blood Money” is among the potent shorter songs the Sisters released before things took a more epic turn with Floodland. On these earlier recordings, guitarists Wayne Hussey and Gary Marx explored a wide range of guitar tones that helped not only to define the Sisters’ style and sound but expanded the language of the genre. Also, Eldritch’s lyrics have often been up for fan debate as lyrically he does not put all his cards on the table, which makes for interesting interpretations.

“Driven Like the Snow,” from Floodland (1987)

While the Sisters were known for dance-floor friendly and, later, hard-rocking numbers, they also served up more ethereal tracks like this one. Despite the strong pulse laid down on bass and by Doktor Avalanche (their faithful drum machine), everything else about this song is generally subdued and gentle—the dreamy ambient synths that open the piece, the lightly dancing acoustic guitar, and Eldritch’s ominous crooning. There’s a soothing quality to “Driven Like the Snow” as Eldritch seemingly equates being lost on a snowy drive with feeling misplaced in a fraying or frayed relationship. 

“Sandstorm,” from Dominion EP (1988)

Another outlier on this list is this lush instrumental featuring a couple of tracks of reverb-laced saxophone and keyboards; interestingly enough, they are all sampled extracts from “Dominion” repurposed for this song. On one hand it is very distinctly ‘80s, but unlike some of the more dated or cheesier sounds of other artists of the time, “Sandstorm” feels more distinct and original like “Tara” from Roxy Music. Perhaps the best analogy is this is the kind of sax-driven track that would feel more at home in some intense noir thriller rather than a perky dramedy. Based on this alone, one wonders what an Andrew Eldritch movie score might have sounded like.

“I Was Wrong,” from Vision Thing (1990)

The closing cut of the Sisters’ third album, “I Was Wrong” is a laid-back track with some hearty acoustic guitar strumming and a gently dancing bass line. The protagonist of the song struggles with being able to stay in a relationship but knowing he needs the connection he feels. When asked by The Quietus if the song is about someone specific, Eldritch replied that is wasn’t: “It’s that bittersweet bar ennui,” he said. But he did tell Louder last year: “You know when I wrote that song, it was about not being wrong.” Cue online debate.

“You Could Be the One,” from More single (1990)

Vision Thing certainly had its share of catchy, rock-oriented tracks, and this was one of the stronger ones despite not being included on the original eight-song vinyl release. With its highly charged riffs and guitar solo, it’s got hard rock crossover appeal and a great singalong chorus. By this point, the band was more six-string-driven with some tracks walking the line into metal territory. The lyrics here are about enjoying the passion of the moment with someone new, but with more clever wordplay than other bands of the day.

All God’s children give good phone
I called Jesus, he’s not home so
I’m so pleased to talk to you
Trees and walks, I love them too
Threatened species, they adore me
Flower children never bore me

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Photo by David Redfern/Redferns

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