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Jesus And Mary Chain
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  • Psychocandy
  • Darklands
  • Automatic
  • Honey's Dead








  • Adrian's Album Reviews |

    Jesus And Mary Chain

    Psychocandy( 1985 )
    Just Like Honey / The Living End / Taste The Floor / The Hardest Walk / Cut Dead / In A Hole / Taste Of Cindy / Some Candy Talking / Never Understand / Inside Me / Sowing Seeds / My Little Underground / You Trip Me Up / Something's Wrong / It's So Hard

    A revolutionary album when it first appeared in the mid-eighties, 'Psychocandy' and Jesus And Mary Chain later went onto be an influence on the likes of Ride, The Pixies, Sonic Youth and other innovative guitar bands circa the early nineties. 'Psychocandy' was seen as a reaction against the glossy 'newness' of mid-eighties, synthesized pop music. Here was a band that sounded, on the one-hand, like a throwback to punk yet on the other, a band rooted in sixties pop ideals. Hence, the Spector/Motownesque pop structure of the opening 'Just Like Honey' moving into the distorted and layered amaterish guitar noise of 'The Living End'. Yet, it was a noise we hadn't heard before. A band celebrating noise and pop and punk and rock music, all at the same time. A band setting out to be loud and tuneless, yet include a beating heart of melody. Kind of like a message set right through the middle of a stick of rock? Yeah, they always had their sense of melody, however shrouded and hidden in guitar noise it was, it was always there. As the album progresses, it becomes apparent that Velvet Underground may have sounded much like Jesus And Mary Chain, had they not had the violin/viola skills of John Cale and instead had Lou Reed buried in a bucket in a punch up with The Sex Pistols and The Clash, instead. I could mention The Ramones as well, yet Jesus And Mary Chain don't sound like The Ramones. They don't play punk chords, the guitars aren't punk guitars. The guitars are shrouded and sent into the next layer of noise thanks to heavenly distortion, yet pop melody sixties soul style is present as well. It's this combination of a song sounding great rock n roll turned up loud, yet also working as a pop song for the noisy guitar fan... that's a feature of the likes of 'The Hardest Walk'.

    It becomes apparent that behind this albums thin sound and very effective echo, that a bunch of stellar actual songs are present. 'Psychocandy' works on both levels, at the same time. You can groove out to the avant-garde rock n roll guitar distortion, or immerse yourself in the beauty of the songs themselves. Certain songs work on both levels at the same time. Sat right in the middle of the album are two contrasting versions of this, the storming noise of 'Never Understand' and the storming classic song structure of the lovely and timeless 'Some Candy Talking'. 'Inside Me' is also stellar, leads off with much bass groove ( albeit thinly recorded, as was the style of indie bands at the time, although a style Jesus And Mary Chain were at the forefront of ) and continues with pounding drums, much indecipherable distorted guitar - the bass holds the song together, this time. A couple of songs out of the set sound too samey as other songs here, this isn't quite the classic album it's always painted to be, yet right towards the end 'Somethings Wrong' arrives and it holds you. 'Psychocandy' comes across as being genuine and real and a painting of human artistic beauty, forged out of actual sweat, blood and tears. Only, you either see just the blood and sweat, or the artistic beauty. Or, if you 'get' the album, you see both, magnificently.

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    ben leach kingoftheeyesores1@yahoo.com
    Thins album is intense. It is so soft and pretty in places and loud and brilliant in others. A must have. And not only did it give way to The Pixies, Sonic Youth etc. You can hear distinct traces of 'Candy' in My Bloody Valeintine. Brilliant album. 9.5/10

    gazza garyhess44@hotmail.com
    i remember the my old man coming into my room while i was playing this shouting "thats not music" !! Happy days .. People forget just how inciendary this sounded back in the lame musical climate of 1985 . Its actually an incredible pop record , it wears its beach boys,spector and velvets influences right up front , its just buried under an incredible feedback assault and pounding simple drums . You trip me up,just like honey are extra class and id love to hear dylan (another influence) have a stab at some candy talkin!!! or maybe not eh ? Just listened to it earlier on vinyl and got complaints from my girlfriend along the same lines as my dads !! Seems the mary chain can annoy people right across the age spectrum and for that they deserve our respect .

    JK norfolk
    I believe that this album deserves a 9.5 at least as it set the benchmark for a new form of rock. It also inspired bands to form in the way that VU inspired bands in the 60's.


    top of page Darklands( 1987 )
    Darklands / Deep One Perfect Morning / Happy When It Rains / Down On Me / Nine Million Rainy Days / April Skies / Fall / Cherry Came Too / On The Wall / About You

    As is so often the case, Jesus And Mary Chain's second LP fails to live upto the raw energy of the first. They became more refined, without trying to, by the way. Yet, such a thing is inevitable. I heard a story about The Slits. They were loved so much because they couldn't play at all. They had some kind of rare genuine enthusiasm and energy and creativity. Subsequent recordings saw them improve as players, yet lose what endeared people to them in the first place. Thus, in places, 'Darklands' isn't as good as 'Psychocandy'. They sound almost refined, 'Nine Million Rainy Days' sounds fairly ploddy, although it still retains many of the elements that 'Psychocandy' had. One important element missing, though. The amateurish-ness. The rawness. They retain the thin production values, yet lose the raw edge. Yet, 'Darklands' still works. Jesus And The Mary Chain it turns out, although we all knew this already, right? It turns out, they can write good tunes and melodies. 'Happy When It Rains' is spine-tingling glory, the title song is mid-tempo glorious melody, a Velvet Underground turned pop transported twenty years into the future. Only, without some Welsh avant-garde bloke scratching viola everywhere! And, without Lou Reed mentioning drugs and sex and lord knows what else. Pretty boring then? Well, no. Jesus And Mary Chain have some sense of classic pop. This title song includes "do-do-do" backing vocals. It is perfectly structured and composed. Almost, perfect pop. Yet, shrouded in a thin sound, echoey drums, distortion, etc. It's a funny thing, you see. Do the songs matter or the sound? If the Supremes had recorded 'Darklands', the song - in their peak? All those sessions guys, masters they were! With Diana Ross singing? This song would now be classic. It still is, yet the alternative nature of Jesus And Mary Chain prevents such appreciation amongst the masses.

    'April Skies' is the highlight of this album. A great song, wonderfully composed. The closing 'About You' sounds acoustic, it sounds natural and touching. 'Cherry Came Too' sounds touching also, and it becomes blatantly clear that Jesus And Mary Chain are not about to go wild, or become The Sex Pistols. It becomes clear that they love and adore proper songs. 'Darklands' contains a bunch of them. Yet, the allure of 'Psychocandy', where they didn't yet know quite what they wanted to do, yet had their enthusiasms, beats down 'Darklands' anyday. Says me, at least.

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    Danny danny@leftoffthedial.com
    Great Review! Darklands is where the JAMC fully reveal the warped rock and soul constructions that are bouncing around in their heads, and like you said, they don't bury it in Psychocandy's awe-inspiring distortion. While deconstructing their sound, they made "Fall" a frentic track on this LP that would point them towards a new formula for them to explore more fully on Automatic. As cool as Psychocandy's distortion was and still is, both Automatic and Darklands would prove that the JAMC didn't need noise to sound dark and confrontational. This was the first of many times when the JAMC were two steps ahead of both their fanbase and their critics.


    top of page Automatic 7 ( 1989 )
    Here Comes Alice / Coast To Coast / Blues From A Gun / Between Planets / UV Ray / Her Way Of Praying / Head On / Take It / Half Way To Crazy / Gimme Hell / Drop / Sunray

    'Gimme Hell' sounds absolutely magnificent. That's my opening sentence for this review. 'Automatic', an album nearly always treated as vastly inferior to the two that came before it, yet let's look at that viewpoint for awhile. The sound/production for this record is more 'professional' than either of the two that came before. There's no doubting that. What we've got to decide is whether it's a good thing, or not. Also factor in the, um, fact... that Jesus And Mary Chain were down to a duo at this stage, the two brothers Reid. So, we've a drum machine, a synth bass and other instruments pretending to be a bass, an actual bass amongst them in certain places. Wowee! We've certain songs here where the production, the playing and the melodies, most importantly, all combine together excellently. We've other songs that miss the mark, more of which later. Let's pick out a few highpoints whilst we're here. 'Coast To Coast' contains this excellent crunching sound during the break. They could have made more of it, but 'Coast To Coast' remains an enjoyable driving romp, anyhow. 'Head On', later to be covered by The Pixies, is just a sheer classic rock n roll tune. As is the controlled distortion and class of 'Her Way Of Praying'. Yes, the songwriting displayed on the best songs here proves that Jesus And Mary Chain had indeed developed and improved since the days of 'Psychocandy'. Let's look at 'Here Comes Alice', a song the match for the better songs from either of the previous two long-players this group released. We've a softer, acoustic song here titled 'Drop' that varies the mood of the record wonderfully. Sadly, the rest of the album, eg, the songs I haven't mentioned yet, often leave a little to be desired, especially when they attempt to venture into 'Psychocandy' territory.

    I mentioned the fact the group were using a drum machine now? Well, a few tracks especially suffer from this. 'Sunray' opens with a drum machine solo. The guitars on display all through 'UV Ray' would likely have been far more enjoyable had they not been drowned out by the Jesus And Mary Chain drum machine pattern that was employed. A song such as 'Take It' typifies the problem the weaker material here has, the programmed drum loops simply irritate and are far too noticeable. It's a shame, especially for a song such as 'Take It', an enjoyable song underneath, one with real potential. Ultimately, most of the actual material contained on 'Automatic' is generally pretty good. 'Automatic' remains a good, fun album to listen to, even with its faults. We still waited for Jesus And Mary Chain to get the mix right, sound-wise and writing wise. We'd find out again a few years later whether they'd manage to get any closer to that 'right' mix.

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    Danny danny@leftoffthedial.com
    I exaggerate a lot, but Automatic is probably the best rock album ever made! Adrian's giving you a good summary of the state the Reid brothers were in when recording Automatic, and if it was viewed as a critical dissapointment at the time, it was only because nobody understood the new dimension in rock music that Automatic hints at. People still don't understand it today. The JAMC probably didn't understand what they had done at the time either. IF YOU'VE NEVER HEARD THIS ALBUM BUY IT IMMEDIATELY. Oh wait it's out of print--so it goes, eh?--find it used!!! I've been listening to Automatic for over 12 years now, and it is the only album that I own that consistently gets better with EVERY SINGLE listen. This album is so genius that the rock world is still behind in tapping it's DIY creative potential although the Pixies, Nine Inch Nails, BRMC, The Raveonettes, Oasis, and even Arap Strap (to name a few) have tried very hard to tap it's magic at times. These are 60s rock songs:! The Beach Boys, Velvet Underground, Johnny Cash, Phil Spector, and Rockabilly, all warped into some future dimension of Hell where heavy guitar riffs attempt to strangle the nursery rhyme melodies that didn't already get washed away by the album's techno dance beats. Just listen to this album and try to think of the roles that each instrument has here? Most songs begin with the Reids singing in a monotone, and many guitar riffs start out repetitively (like the bridge of "Here Comes Alice"). The drum machine is programmed more like an improvising guitar here with different fills and stutters at each verse. It's as if the monotone lyrics work as your bassline, and it's actually the drum machine and guitar which seem to be singing to you in some kind of vocal harmony. If you listen closely, the Reids are sort of harmonizing with just one guitar and a drum machine @ 2:30-2:50! That's why it sounds so good in later songs when they layer multiple guitars, vocals, drumbeats and! high-hats all over each other. A few seconds later in "Here C! omes Ali ce" they flip the whole formula upside down too. The guitar riff which was simply part of the bassline gets drowned out by a guitar solo. Then the vocals start picking up melodies as the drum machine gets beefed up with extra highhats to try and keep up. Now listen to "Blues From A Gun". The first 15 seconds have two guitars playing harmonizing figure 8 riffs around a drum machine so out of proper time signature that the whole song sounds like it will collapse and fall flat on its ass at any second. "Between Planets" is even better. This time the drum beat's precision is chopped up by the changing time signatures of the guitar riffs @ 1:50. How do they follow that up? By changing the time signature of the drum machine of course, right before they ditch their vocal monotone for a chorus full of melody. I'm not kidding here. It's nice to think that a rock band has some telepathic connection between the drummer and guitarist to create shit like this, but it would be impos! sible without all the mechanical pre/post-programming that Automatic has. How this album was ever recorded to me is still a mystery. It's like the chicken and the egg--which came first? The guitars play all around the drum machine and the drum machine plays all around the guitars and vocals. The other Jesus and Mary Chain albums are brilliant in their own right, but if any musician wants to experiment with new untapped ways to fuck up rock n'roll, they should listen to Automatic very carefully. Keep giving this album time, and I guarantee, every song will grow on you! It took me 12 years to appreciate it, but it was certainly worth the wait!

    Dan justto_haveone@hotmail.com
    Yeah, I could agree with Danny: Automatic is one enjoyable thing: it's its own person with a unique-enough and fulfilling track-list. If you go into this thinking that it's average JaMC, my hope is that you pay attention to the song makeup and change your mind!



    top of page Honey's Dead 8 ( 1992 )
    Reverence / Teenage Lust / Far Gone And Out / Almost Gold / Sugar Ray / Tumbledown / Catchfire / Good For My Soul / Rollercoaster / I Can't Get Enough / Sundown / Frequency

    Noted 'shoegazer' producer/engineer Alan Moulder was given the (considerably larger than usual) Jesus and Mary Chain budget to craft sonic cathedrals and to harness the bands liveliness. Flood joins in for a few tracks, Flood had worked with Depeche Mode and would go onto work with U2 among others. So, we've a solid team in the studio, we've the Reid brothers joined by drummer Steve Monti (of ‘Curve’) and the controversial lyrics of 'Reverence' to see 'Honey's Dead' receive alternative airplay in the US. Indeed, 'Honey's Dead' became the then best-selling Jesus and Mary Chain LP. We lived in a post 'Nevermind' world, although Jesus And Mary Chain you would have to say were closer to Sonic Youth circa 'Goo' than they ever were to Nirvana. 'Reverence' though is just magnificent, a storming tune with intent to destroy. Turn it up loud and it sounds even more ferocious. I Wanna die just like JFK.... I wanna die in the USA.... I wanna die... I wanna die The sound is all guitars, crunching drums and bass sounds all amongst controlled feedback. It's exhilarating and no mistake. This strong start to the LP is continued with 'Teenage Lust', a song where the feeling matches the title. The music is sexy deep intimidating guitar groove with building guitar crescendos. Works for me. 'Far Gone And Out' completes an almost flawless album opening with more intent, more melody and perhaps this is the all round finest thing here. Perhaps. I know the first two songs have their many fans, also.

    There are moments in nearly every song on this LP that make you smile. Easily their most consistently pleasurable listen from beginning to end since 'Psychocandy'. Take 'Tumbledown' for instance and just wallow in the outro like a pig spinning in heavenly, royal approved muck. The smooth vocals of 'Catchfire' whilst an entire forest blaze erupts around the singer is something to enjoy. The guitar sound during 'Good For My Soul' is blissful, the entirety of 'Sundown' is simply gorgeous and a welcome respite from the 100 daggers continually aimed straight at you, amps up to eleven, the possible complaint one can levy at the majority of the rest of the LP. We get a pointless reprise/remix of 'Reverence' with alternate lyrics to close the album, but it's been a satisfying ride. Not an album to play over and over due to the sonics, yet certainly one of the stronger Jesus and Mary Chain LPs.

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    GAZZA
    Great review adrian , i heartily agree with the score too . I remember it coming out about the same time as "achtung baby" u2s change of direction album and bonos reaction was incredulous when hearing "reverence" on a radio 1 show . the programmed beats,screaming guitars and blasphemous lyrics caused a fair commotion at the time !! The 1st 3 tracks pack a mighty punch but so do the distorted tremelo guitar work on "catchfire" and "tumbledown" probably williams best playing , and special note has to be made of the more gentler moments too "good for my soul" and "sundown" are just beautiful to bask in . Itll never top psychocandy for originality and impact but it may yet be ranked as its close equal .

    stephen murphy
    I wholeheartedly agree Adrian. It's a little bit of a guilty pleasure because the powers what be have always scoffed at this particular offring by the mighty Ried Bros, but I think there is nary a finer example of dirty dance-rock in the cannon. Makes Kasabian look like Steps.


    top of page this page last updated 26/5/08


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