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Thursday, May 15, 2008
The Jesus And Mary Chain Will Drive You Insane!
Just like thousands of music fans I couldn’t play “Psychocandy” by the Jesus and Mary Chain often enough. The way pop melodies would be offset by continuously howling feedback guitars and a bottomless pit of reverb on the vocals was an irresistible exotic music nightmare. They were compared to the Velvet Underground quite a bit but they never seemed clumsy like the Velvets did.
I caught them at The Roxy Theatre shortly after, and it was quite possibly the worst show I’ve ever been to. Following a painfully awful set from Frightwig (who opened with “Delta Dawn”, so much for alternative music), the boys finally got up and dosed us with their psycho candy. And it tasted like dog shit.
The guitar had the tinniest tone with more reverb on it than I’ve ever heard on a guitar, so it sounded thinner than tin. The bass was inaudible, so all we were left listening to was bad ghosty guitar and the stand-up drumming from Bobby Gillespie (who shortly quit the band to sing for Primal Scream).
Lousy sonics aside, the band was so loaded they played “In My Hole” a second time…two songs later. By the time they played it a third time, two songs later, they were getting booed big time by a sold-out crowd. Their set only lasted thirty minutes, shorter than their album. It reminded me of the Woody Allen joke where he said, “Oh! The chicken they serve is so awful…and in such small portions.”
So after getting burned by these junkie dicks I wrote JAMC off as the greatest joke in music. For awhile they were, too, putting out pedestrian junk like “Sidewalking” (Ouch, sorry for the pun) and those boring duets with the girl from Mazzy Star who seemed to have been beaten with the untalented stick.
It all turned around when I was on tour in South Carolina, setting up my gear and the PA was playing intermission music when on comes “Blues From A Gun”, explosive drums kicking the room around and the most lethal guitar (no longer reverb diarrhea), and I thought, “Nothing I play tonight will sound as powerful as this. Shit!” As soon as I heard the whispery cool kat vocals I knew it was the fucking Jesus and Mary Chain, rising from the dead like it’s Easter. You couldn’t write them off, the bastards.
Other manic recordings soon followed, like the amazing “I Hate Rock ‘N Roll”, with the lines, “I love the BBC, I love the way they’re shittin’ on me, I love MTV, I love the way they’re pissin’ on me”. And of course the vocals are all lovely melody with more growling guitar than the last sonic skull fuck they recorded. The coda at the end is the greatest of all time, with the prettiest melody sung, “Rock and roll hates me, I hate me, I hate me, I hate rock ‘n roll hates me”. Genius.
Their final hour was the sequel titled (of course) “I Love Rock ‘N Roll”, with it’s reptilian slide guitars and All-American horn section, sounding so crassly commercial and yet so powerful like the best rock music. Needless to say the song infuriated their purist fans to the point of dementia.
A true sampling of their ability to split music fans straight down the middle can be found on the message board of any YouTube video that shows their videos. Here are a few comments:
“The COOLEST band ever!”
“They’re boring and pathetic now. Psychocandy 1985 was the only good thing they ever did”.
“I loved this band for 23 years and I am not giving up on them. They are hot!”
“Oasis and the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club are MUCH better than the JAMC”.
“Still wild after all these years!”
To offend your fans 25 years after your first album is a major accomplishment. It’s also a true testimony to their ability to be the most controversial band of all time. For that reason The Jesus and Mary Chain have outpaced their peers like The Psychedelic Furs, Bauhaus and The Birthday Party in terms of sheer outrage. The zombie keeps rockin’ and bullets to the brain cannot stop them.