I first encountered Miracle Legion in 1989 or 1990 when a friend played me the 12″ of ‘You’re The One Lee’, a beautiful piece of chiming acoustic pop that immediately became a firm favourite. The band were presented to me as a rival to REM’s crown (the next REM was a big thing at that time) and I expected great things from them. Despite the quality of album that spawned the single (Me & Mr.Ray) and the full-band follow-up (Drenched) the breakthrough success of the band never came, and their more esoteric side was not embraced by the wider public.
I wasn’t even aware that they released any other albums, so limited was the release of their final album, and I only picked up on the band again some time later when discovering the solo works of singer Mark Mulcahy. His most recent solo album (Dear Mark J Mulcahy I Love You) showed that he is an artist at the top of his game, but also demands that people revisit his legacy. With that in mind it is great news that Miracle Legion’s final album, Portrait Of A Damaged Family, has been reissued and is now getting some of the attention it deserves.
The comparisons to REM have some validity, the jangle pop of ‘You’re My Blessing’ certainly has parallels, as does the low key acoustic sound of ‘Homer’. This certainly isn’t the whole picture though with the band demonstrating a lot of depth to their sound and some real personality that is badly served by their status as a foot-note in the career of a more successful act.
The album succeeds through a mixture of consistency and variety that gets the balance pretty spot on. This is a guitar pop album that could only have been released in the 1990s, and sounds like a unified whole. Within that template however the style, feel and tone is nicely varied and it feels like a band at the start, not end, of their career.
There is some sadness from the fact that the album has been neglected for nearly two decades, with the band’s profile shrinking over the intervening years. This is tempered somewhat by the happiness that the album is available again and a new generation can enjoy the band’s distinctive voice.
Further happiness can come from the good news that the whole of the band’s back catalogue is available via the Miracle Legion Bandcamp which brings all the bands albums (and some EPs) together in one place for the first time. Add to this a string of UK live dates in June and August (we’ll be at the Brighton gig on August 16th) and it is a pretty good time to (re)discover one of the great lost bands.
By Dorian Rogers