The Jesus and Mary Chain is back among us in … again. They played the Paradise in 2012 and are back one more time, playing (among other things) the entirety of “Psychocandy,” the brilliant album that brought them early notoriety, at the House of Blues Tuesday Sept. 29. I remember the noise, the clamor and the controversy that greeted “Psychocandy,” their debut disc, and their reputation for playing very short, very chaotic concerts. The whole package came to the late lamented club, the Channel back in the mid-’80s. (They actually played around an hour, exceeding expectations by a factor of two.) Look at the reconsituted JAMC – led by brothers Jim (vox) and William Reid (gtr)- like a rock ‘n’ roll version of that old Certs TV commercial: The Jesus and Mary Chain is a noise band. The Jesus and Mary Chain is a pop band. The Jesus and Mary Chain is two, two, two bands in one, with William’s shrieking guitar feedback ripsawing through a series of dark, pop dirges. Some years after that debut I talked to William. “What we’ve gathered in the five or six years we’ve been doing this,” he said, “is writing a great song is extremely difficult and making noise is extremely easy. Being called a noise band, I always felt was underselling us. Generally speaking, noise is almost a physical act, whereas writing a song is more an intellectual process. I’m more proud of the songs I’ve written than the noise of made. But when you marry the two of them, it can make something.” “Just Like Honey” : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7EgB__YratE
What I found in the ’90s – and what I expect to see here – is a band wholse dea of showmanship remains pretty much the same as it was back in 1985, when the group created England’s biggest punk stir since the Sex Pistols. The Reids will stand on stage, nearly immobile and expressionless, immersed in dense clouds of chemical smoke, lit obliquely, making a big noise. Back then, the Mary Chain, especially in concert, was a glorious mess, a massive explosion of snarling guitar melody and feedback, dark and nasty, well outside the mainstream. The noise and pop melody was still juxtaposed, but the noise was more sculpted, polished almost. And, rather than seeming a disheartening homogenization, it just appears that the quartet had a better grip on the electricity they release and ride. To steal a Buzzcocks’ album title, it’s a different kind of tension.
The band is a direct descendent of the Stooges, the early ’70s group that spawned Iggy Pop, and Joy Division, the late ’70s group that evolved into New Order when singer Ian Curtis hanged himself. Don’t think the Mary Chain isn’t aware, at least, of the Stooges reference.
Like those groups, the Mary Chain favors rough sound; guitarist Reid operates most frequently on the lower register of his instrument, creating thick, meaty riffs. Jim spins desultory tales of everyday nightmares and breaks form every so often, most notably in “Head On,” for a moment of impure celebration. Mostly, as in “Halfway to Crazy,” Jim contemplated is own sorry state and wondered if “life is as bad as dreams.” The Mary Chain’s sound, though, was not a downer. There was a resplendent quality to it — a shimmering, exquisite beauty lurking amidst all the damage.
They disbanded in 1999, played occasional gigs aftwerward, but and then got back together in 2012. (No ever-fighting Gallagher or Davies brothers here! Well, if they fight, they’re still able to work together … ) From their Houston gig three years ago, the critic, Chris Gray of the Houston Press, reported Jim cussed at the crowd, (no big deal, crowds suck sometimes), but wrote, “Like purple, the color of a hickey, and a bruise. ‘Just Like Honey’ and ‘Happy When It Rains’ were primal and sweet, almost narcotic. It was like being beaten into submission by a bag of gumdrops. You don’t see too many bands these days who will give off danger, sweetness and indifference at such high levels, let alone all at once.” That’s enough to re-whet my appetite.
Opening: Black Ryder, of which The Guardian recently opined, “The Sydney duo join the likes of King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, Ty Segall, Hookworms,the Wytches and Goat in the new psychedelia movement. Keeping on that theme of door-based preoccupation, Nash and Scott Von Ryper’s debut UK album, The Door Behind the Door, is beautifully slow burning, its grinding guitars and heavy layers of dark, feted romance akin to Spiritualized and the Jesus and Mary Chain.”