Waiting for a Miracle is a sorcerous first album, at least once it sinks in, after short-to-long phases of puzzlement, bemusement, and fascination. Its songs of romantic ruin, paranoia, and doubt are spare, inelastic, and ceaselessly on edge. Even when the songs are at their bounciest and most alluring, they have an insular and alien quality. The instruments are played with intrepid simplicity, but when they're heard as one, they sound peculiar and complex -- the results aren't unlike slow, stern spins on Pere Ubu's "The Modern Dance" and "Street Waves" -- albeit with insidious lyrical hooks that are innocuous to the eye and startling to the ear, like "This is total war, girl," "Sometimes I feel out of control," and "I can't relax 'cause I haven't done a thing and I can't do a thing 'cause I can't relax." Acting as something like a minimalist garage band with one foot in the past and the other in the future, with Andy Peake's memory-triggering organ bleats offset by structural abnormalities and twists, the band does come across as a little timid from time to time, unsure of how far to take its uniqueness, but it's only another factor that fosters the album's insistent nerviness. "Total War," a razor-sharp examination of a relationship snapping under the pressure of buried mutual contempt, threatens to stop as often as it appears to be on the verge of taking off, carries a circular arrangement, and provides no release. It was the album's "other" single, nearly as conventions-stripped as PiL's more venomous "Flowers of Romance" (released the following year). "Independence Day," on the other hand, gave the band its greatest commercial success, wrapping all the band's strengths in one concise package, from the brilliantly paced shifts between the sparse and the dense to the balance between the direct and the indirect. Apart from the barren, ominous kiss-off that is "Postcard," each of the remaining songs sound like singles, even if they never had a chance at putting the band on Top of the Pops. (This is a band that called itself "doomsteady" with a hint of seriousness, after all.) While there are crucial differences that reveal themselves after deep listening, this album can be appreciated by anyone touched by other maverick post-punk albums released the same year, such as Joy Division's Closer, Associates' The Affectionate Punch, Magazine's The Correct Use of Soap, the Sound's Jeopardy, and Simple Minds' Empires and Dance.
AllMusic Review by Andy Kellman