The 1990s seemed pretty brutal for bands. In those days before the internet really became a legitimate marketplace for artists to take their music directly to the fans, the industry had their way with bands — treating them like disposable ragdolls. If they didn’t churn out just what they wanted, they tossed them aside and moved on.
Such is the case for Mr. Mister, who, after two absolutely massive hits in the mid-1980s (“Kyrie,” “Broken Wings”) found they couldn’t (and really didn’t want to) repeat what they’d already done — to the chagrin of their label. After that, they began shifting away toward more “adult” sounds. The ensuing album, Go On, was dealt pretty a pretty cool reception, but did
have one minor hit thanks to a song serving as the title track to the film Stand And Deliver.
The label expected a follow-up with more marketable hits. They didn’t get it. The band broke up. That’s the story we’d known for a long time, but it turned out Mr. Mister went back in the studio, recorded, mixed and fully readied a whole new album.
In the words of Tom Petty, “their A&R man said ‘I don’t hear a single.'” The resulting album was “too artsy,” as future King Crimson drummer Pat Mastelotto puts it in the liner notes. It got shelved and the band, discouraged, split up. That album sat out there as a rumor and eventually a bootleg, with only one song officially slipping out to a compilation (“Waiting In My Dreams”). Twenty years later, in 2010, it received a proper release as Pull, with a fitting update in the form of a remix to bring it in line with modern music.
The good news is that it’s the best album Mr. Mister ever created. For those who want to scoff at anything ’80s, this may sound like faint praise, but it is not. Where the band had previously created albums that worked mainly as vehicles to deliver some hits, Pull picks up where Go On left off, where it seemed that album was too hesitant to go. The band of “Kyrie” fame is not the band heard on Pull, that much is true, but the music is much stronger as a whole. Where Mr. Mister has gone is more akin to the territory Talk Talk explored in the transitional album The Colour Of Spring.
There was simply no profitable place on radio for a song like the jazz-tinged “Crazy Boy” or the ethereal “We Belong To No One,” fantastic though they may be. This is music too “adult” for simple rock stations and too smart for adult contemporary.
Was the label right, though? Sadly, yes, if the only angle is purely marketing. Pull isn’t the album they were looking for, with no “Kyrie II” or “More Broken Wings.” This is an album that would appeal to those listeners who, at that time, had progressed beyond modern pop and were looking into the works of David Sylvian and maybe dipping a toe into jazz, but maybe didn’t want something so serious. You want to shake your fists at the evil record labels, but had this been released, it would have disappeared immediately.
As frustrating and unfortunate as it sounds, perhaps fermenting on a shelf is the best thing that could happen to Mr. Mister’s Pull. Divorced two decades from its original recording, it was finally freed from the trends of the time and allowed to exist as-is. Listeners today seem much more forgiving of both throwback music and the mish-mash of genres that Mr. Mister dabble in here.
Not to mention that the internet can be put to work seeding the information that Pull is an album that was worth waiting for.
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