The Innocence Mission

June 15, 2006


The Innocence Mission emerged from Lancaster, Pennsylvania in the late eighties bearing a folkish, atmospheric, airy-guitar style that owed as much to 10,000 Maniacs as it did to Simon and Garfunkel. Comprised of four schoolfriends, Mike Bitts (bass), Steve Brown (drums), Don Peris (lead guitar, keyboards) and his newlywed wife Karen Peris (vocals, guitar, keyboards), the band found a niche on A&M Records’s roster upon the strength of the ep Tending the Rose Garden. Since then The Innocence Mission has been cultivating a personal, contemplative style that explores the most fragile regions of the post-punk, “enlightened”, arty sound.

The Innocence Mission (1989, A&M), the band’s self-titled debut, if anything was strikingly unique (especially for its era). Karen’s lyrics (on this record), obviously contrasting the literary sophistication of a Natalie Merchant and a John Lombardo or the imagination of a Morrisey, may seem plain at first glance, like random scribblings in a notebook; yet there is something to be said for their humility, which comes across as refreshingly honest. In those days Karen’s words primarilly covered the desperate insecurity of youth. Above all, the shining point of the album is Karen’s unique, wonderfully odd sorprano (comparable to Kate Bush and Mary Margaret O’Hara), displayed at its most fledgling stage. That combined with Don Peris’s beautifully chiming guitar style and the slower, more subtle rhythms is what makes this record such a beautiful listen. Some of the finer moments are the elegant “Mercy” and the consuming “Surreal” and “Wonder of Birds”.

Similar artist : 10,000 maniacs


Audio Sample : 90 seconds



  1. Wow! I’ve never seen the “Black Sheep Wall” video. In fact, I never knew it existed. Great song but the vid doesn’t do it a great deal of justice.

  2. For some reason, this song simply reminds me of a Kate Bush’s song — “Running up that Hill”. Must be Karen Peris vocal style and that fact that she plays the piano too. : )

  3. The Black Sheep Wall is the first time I saw them, like in 1988 or so. Bright as Yellow is one of the most lovely tunes out there. I covered it for one of my records….

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