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+ Donato Wharton - Body Isolations
+ Svalastog - Woodwork
+ Tim Hecker - Harmony In Ultraviolet
+ Rosy Parlane - Jessamine
+ Jarvis Cocker - The Jarvis Cocker Record
+ Múm - Peel Session
+ Deloris - Ten Lives
+ Minimum Chips - Lady Grey
+ Badly Drawn Boy - Born In The U.K.
+ The Hold Steady - Boys And Girls Together
+ The Blood Brothers - Young Machetes
+ The Places - Songs For Creeps
+ Camille - Le Fil
+ Wolf Eyes - Human Animal
+ Christina Carter - Electrice
+ The Decemberists - The Crane Wife
+ Junior Boys - So This Is Goodbye
+ Various Artists - Musics In The Margin
+ Rafael Toral - Space
+ Bob Dylan - Modern Times
+ Excepter - Alternation
+ Chris Thile - How To Grow A Woman From The Ground
+ Brad Mehldau - Live in Japan
+ M Ward - Post-War
+ Various Artists - Touch 25
+ The Mountain Goats - Get Lonely
+ The White Birch - Come Up For Air
+ Camera Obscura - Let's Get Out of This Country
+ Coachwhips - Double Death
+ Various Artists - Tibetan And Bhutanese Instrumental And Folk Music, Volume 2
+ Giuseppe Ielasi - Giuseppe Ielasi
+ Cex - Actual Fucking
+ Sufjan Stevens - The Avalanche
+ Leafcutter John - The Forest And The Sea
+ Carla Bozulich - Evangelista
+ Barbara Morgenstern - The Grass Is Always Greener
+ Robin Guthrie - Continental
+ Peaches - Impeach My Bush
+ Oakley Hall - Second Guessing
+ Klee - Honeysuckle
+ The Court & Spark - Hearts
+ TV On The Radio - Return To Cookie Mountain
+ Awesome Color - Awesome Color
+ Jenny Wilson - Love And Youth
+ Asobi Seksu - Citrus
+ Marsen Jules - Les Fleurs
+ The Moore Brothers - Murdered By The Moore Brothers
+ Regina Spektor - Begin To Hope
+ The 1900s - Plume Delivery EP
+ Alejandro Escovedo - The Boxing Mirror
+ Function - The Secret Miracle Fountain
+ Sonic Youth - Rather Ripped
+ Loscil - Plume
+ Boris - Pink
+ Deadboy And The Elephantmen - We Are Night Sky
+ Glissandro 70 - Glissandro 70
+ Calexico - Garden Ruin (Review #2)
+ Calexico - Garden Ruin (Review #1)
+ The Flaming Lips - At War With The Mystics
+ The Glass Family - Sleep Inside This Wheel
+ Various Artists - Songs For Sixty Five Roses
+ The Fiery Furnaces - Bitter Tea
+ Motorpsycho - Black Hole/Blank Canvas
+ The Red Krayola - Introduction
+ Metal Hearts - Socialize
+ American Princes - Less And Less
+ Sondre Lerche And The Faces Down Quartet - Duper Sessions
+ Supersilent - 7
+ Band Of Horses - Everything All The Time
+ Dudley Perkins - Expressions
+ Growing - Color Wheel
+ Red Carpet - The Noise Of Red Carpet
+ The Essex Green - Cannibal Sea
+ Espers - II
+ Wilderness - Vessel States

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The Mission

It's hard to fathom in 2002 that way back in 1986, when The Mission's debut disc appeared, what is now called "goth" rock was almost indistinguishable from "alternative." Yet much of what was played on college radio in those days was the kind of darkly-tinged music spawned by Siouxsie and the Banshees and The Cure, who took glam and punk, mixed them together, and came up with the blueprint for goth. Today, of course, goth remains a mostly underground style, while "alternative" has come to signify pretty much everything and nothing at all.

Even in those aforementioned darkly delicious days gone by, however, The Mission (who had "U.K." tacked on in the U.S. for legal reasons) proved problematic. In 1987, two of the band's members, leader Wayne Hussey (vocals, guitar) and Craig Adams (bass), had just quit iconic goth band Sisters of Mercy. Perhaps realizing the market limitations of the nascent alternative genre, they set out with their strong initial offering God's Own Medicine (an old marketing term for opium) to add a little of the then-dreaded pre-punk canon, especially the bombastic side of Led Zeppelin, to the mix. With such strong material as the "Kashmir"-esque "Tower of Strength" (from their 1988 sophomore disc Children), The Mission became a fairly high-profile goth band in North America. But shorn of his fractious but fruitful relationship with Sisters head honcho Andrew Eldritch, Hussey descended into booze-soaked self-parody, releasing increasingly weak material.

All of which makes Aura (currently available as a UK import) a pleasant surprise. Here, original members Hussey and Adams rediscover much of their original mojo, coming on hot and horny on the hard-charging, guitar-driven opener, the S&M-themed "Evangeline" (concerning a woman "who'll bang you blind"), and staying mostly on course through to the elegiac closer, "In Denial."

Particularly effective are the band's explorations of the goth equation's glam side: "To Die by Your Hand" deftly evokes David Bowie's "Chant of the Ever-Circling Skeletal Family" from Diamond Dogs, while raucous album highlight "Burlesque" is striking for its bump-'n'-grind backbeat and (finally) a seeming first-person narrative from Hussey on an, ahem, "encounter" with a female fan in Barcelona ("She asked me if I'd like a little company/ Maybe some blow, a little ecstasy/ Of course I'm not the kind who could ever refuse/ I had time to kill/ Nothing to lose").

There are a couple of duff tracks hidden in the middle of the pack ("Happy," especially, is downright twee) and a few lyrical lapses scattered throughout. At nearly 70 minutes long, Aura also suggests that Hussey could use an editor. But hey, that's why they have programmable CD players. Edit out the clunkers here and you still have a full-length disc of some inspired rock from some old vets. In 2002, you could do much worse, indeed.

by Johnny Walker (Black)

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