The Sisters of Mercy: Some Kind of Stranger
tylus Magazine's Seconds column examines those magic moments that arise when listening to a piece of music that strikes that special chord inside. That pounding drum intro; a clanging guitar built-up to an anthemic chorus; that strange glitchy noise you've never quite been able to figure out; that first kiss or heartbreak; a well-turned rhyme that reminds you of something in your own past so much, it seems like it was written for you—all of those little things that make people love music. Every music lover has a collection of these Seconds in his or her head; these are some of ours.
“Because the world is cruel / And promises are broken / Don't try to tell me anything / Don't try to tell me you'll be true to me / You know the real truth is never spoken.”
You're not gonna win any fights with "Some Kind of Stranger." It's not a song to convert someone to the black-clad army with, or something to share with normals to let them know that these crazy Goth bands are essentially harmless. It's an epic, tortured ballad that arrives at the tail end of an album of amphetamine nightmares, songs to pack a shotgun in the trunk and ride out into the wild wind to, the finale to the soundtrack to fucking shit up and looking impeccably dark and mysterious whilst doing so. And it's a Goth slow jam. The song you put on when you bring home a eyeliner-sheathed conquest from the Batcave and make the beast with two heathen backs.
If "Temple of Love" is the Sisters raising their fists against the mythologizing of romance, Eldritch's log of a night of disenchanted lust, foolish abandon, and riding the weather, then "Some Kind of Stranger" is the morning after. Longing, emptiness, the secret wish for everything so callously rejected and discarded to be actually, honest-to-God true. There's a real sense of urgency, emotions laid bare, that the Sisters would only ever dance around again. For fuck's sake, it's a bloody love song. “Come here I think you're beautiful / My door is open wide”—but don't go running to play it for the Moms: that line follows hot on the heels of this one—“and I don't care what you're called / Tell me later if at all / I can wait a long, long time / Before I hear another love song.” But, wait, you say—I just said "Some Kind of Stranger" was a love song. And so it is. But like "Heartland," their ode to the long white line, "Some Kind of Stranger" is a love song in form and in form alone.
For at the bottom of its black-scraped heart, it's a testament to the glory of casual sex. Think about the last word of the title. Oh, but it's not facile. It's utterly profound: “All I know for real / Is knowing doesn't mean so much / When placed against the feeling / The heat inside / When bodies meet / When fingers touch.” Describing the logic of the body not as a meaningless end to itself, but as a direct countering of the logic of the mind—“all of my words are secondhand and useless in the face of this / Rationale, rhyme, and reason pale beside a single kiss.” Too true.
“I'd settle anytime for unknown footsteps in the hall outside,” sez Andrew. And so would many of us. Oh, come on. Don't pretend. Whether this is reconciliation in the face of a night of pointless fucking or a glorification of unadorned physicality, we've all been there. The fact that these words are steeped in the heaviest, most turgid atmospherics of the Sisters middle-era only hammers them home that much harder. The end of the song employs the same repetition they'd discovered with "Heartland," but instead of a paean to crystal meth, we're given an almost tender ode to meaningless orgasms. And instead of sheer hammering, Gary Marx employs Pink Floyd psychedelics by way of Suicide minimalism to craft walls of distorted guitar wattage that linger long after the track ends, echoing out over stirring keyboard stabs. Kinda like that wild, sweet, drunken night you had last week, eh compadre?
Ultimately, knowing doesn't mean so much.