Mission fans should be thankful. Most bands that come up to the majors the hard way (i.e., on an indie label, releasing singles only) usually ignore their previous output once the big corporate label is buying the drinks. For the Mission, whose reputation was built on those early singles, it was a necessity to make them easy for fans to get their hands on. Polygram was more than willing to saturate the U.K. market with Mission releases, and what better way than to repackage old singles from a minor label and release the collection right after a successful debut? So, on the one hand it feels a bit like cashing in, but on the other The First Chapter is a pretty good collection, more consistent than God's Own Medicine, and containing some of the Mission's better moments. Some may nitpick that the compilation is not set up in a chronological order, but the decision to set up the album in an almost rocker/moody track/rocker pattern keeps the overall project from getting into ruts. The first two singles, "Serpents Kiss" and "Garden of Delight" are the standouts, obviously, but their covers of "Like a Hurricane" (Neil Young), "Wishing Well" (Free), and "Dancing Barefoot" (Patti Smith) are surprisingly solid, proving that the band was interested in taking the rather limited scope of goth rock to more interesting places than just drum machines and moody crooning. The slower, moodier tracks ("Wake [RSV]," "Naked and Savage") feel more like interludes that run a bit long, and the Mission's take on the Beatles' "Tomorrow Never Knows" could have been left behind. An arguably better introduction to the Mission than God's Own Medicine (and not just because this is their initial output), The First Chapter is a sure fan favorite, as well as an interesting piece of history of an oft-forgotten era of English rock.
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AllMusic Review by Chris True