“Just Like Honey” –By The Jesus & Mary Chain.
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How do you decide which is your favourite album, like, ever? What rules or tests apply? Is it really about the music or is it linked to a time in your life you’d dearly wish to revisit? For me it’s a fairly straightforward question, it’s quite simply the album that I have returned to again and again, an album that is still able to console and inspire, and one which while transporting me back through time, still sounds as vibrant and relevant today as it did back in the 80’s. It is, to paraphrase Alan McGee, an album which unlike people, has never let me down and at the time was unlike anything I’d heard before.
Twenty five years ago Scottish brothers William And Jim Reid, the driving forces behind The Jesus And Mary Chain, released their ground breaking full length debut ‘Psychocandy’, mixing beauty with brutality, melody with ear splitting guitar feedback, and gave us an album that is often cited as a seminal moment in 1980’s indie guitar music. It was unleashed at a time when the post punk promise of new wave had all but disappeared up its own arse by way of the fancy dress shop via the cosmetics counter and the only guitar music that existed was a rather fey, self indulgent, limp -wristed affair. The Jesus And Mary Chain exploded onto the scene and were quickly dubbed the new Sex Pistols by some parts of the puritanical press, fuelled in part by mischievous sound bites from their former manager and Creation records owner, Alan Mc Gee, eg. “the audience were not smashing up the hall, they were smashing up pop music” and “this is truly art as terrorism”. The comparison didn’t really fit musically but the Mary Chain certainly put the danger, the snarl and the fuck you attitude back into music, producing a raw and incendiary sound which was light years away from the safe, preening dandified narcissistic nonsense that was the New Romantic movement .
The music of The Jesus and Mary Chain has been a constant presence in my world since their first single and ‘Psychocandy’ is an album that never ceases to astonish me. It was and still is, a beautiful contradiction; light-years ahead of it’s time, yet heavily influenced by the past, visceral and savage yet on occasion surprisingly fragile. A rip roaring sonic soundclash that tore up the rule book and injected some much needed good old fashioned rock and roll rebellion into a sanitised music scene populated by the sort of squeaky clean singers your parents actually approved of. There are still those who paint The Jesus and Mary Chain as sonic nihilists, nothing more than NME hyped hipsters, more style than content, a music journalist’s wet dream, and whilst people who subscribe to this view are of course entitled to their opinion, they are also quite clearly cretins. ‘Psychocandy’ proved that the Reid brothers knew their musical history, that they lived and breathed rock n’ roll but demonstrated that they were also savvy enough to recognise that it was a fluid, evolving beast often taking it’s inspiration from the past. They were rabid consumers of pop music but didn’t deify it with pious reverence like some sort of prissy musical librarian; they took influences as diverse as the Ramones, The Beach Boys, The Shangri-las, The Velvets, Johnny Cash, The Stones, Bo-Diddley, The Stooges, The Supremes and fed them through their sonic blender to produce songs of soul shredding power and beauty.
Jim’s laconic vocals which could spit venom and tenderness in equal measure, combined with the distorted, unhinged magnificence of William’s guitar work may have irked the prog rock purists, but this was exactly the sort of adrenaline fuelled musical explosion that makes rock n roll so thrilling and the Reid’s sonic enema was precisely what the soulless, constipated 80’s music scene needed. The Jesus And Mary Chain could be one of the greatest bands you’ve ever seen live, or one of the worst, depending on which gig you happened to catch but this was part of their edgy excitement, this truly was ‘event music’. They inspired so many bands and whilst their influence is still prevalent today it is the eternal conundrum as to why their musical legacy isn’t afforded the respect it undoubtedly deserves in some quarters. Whilst My Bloody Valentines legend (as good as they were) has been elevated by some slick, revisionist PR to absurdly mythic proportions, it seemed that people had all but forgotten the Mary Chain’s body of work, which I would submit is far more enduring than MBV’s.
Former Mary Chain drummer and Primal Scream front man Bobby Gillespie addressed this issue recently saying “They were a great band and I don’t think they get enough credit just for being them, for being so good at what they do, and for inspiring the amount of people they inspired.”
If you don’t posses ‘Psychocandy’ then your record collection can never be considered truly complete. Beneath the crackle and distortion you’ll hear wonderful pop songs from a band that refused to compromise their musical vision or be pigeon-holed into any particular genre. They may have dressed in black and wore shades, but were never really goth, they may have employed a wall of sound and kept their stage movements to a minimum but they weren’t really shoegaze, and maybe they were a little too ambitious to be considered truly indie by the snoberatti. Whatever the JAMC where, very few bands intuitively understand the true essence of ‘rock n roll’ as well as the Jesus and Mary Chain, it quite simply, was in their soul.
To celebrate ‘Psychocandy’s’ 25th Anniversary and the release of a new Jesus And Mary Chain compilation ‘Upside Down-The Best Of’ which also ties in with release of a documentary feature film `Upside Down: The Story Of Creation Records’ we spoke to Jim Reid and asked him to cast his mind back to 1985……
VP: Twenty five years on from the release of ‘Psychocandy’ and it’s still regarded as one of the most influential and important albums indie albums ever released. Obviously, as fans, we lack objectivity; we can only perceive ‘Psychocandy’ as a wonderful shining, snarling slice of pop rock perfection. However most people, if they were to look back on something they had produced a quarter of a century ago, usually finds something that with the benefit of hindsight they would change. As your one half of the creative forces behind the LP, is there anything in terms of the music or production that you’d change?
JIM: We wanted to make changes to ‘Psychocandy’ within a matter of days after completion – it’s like that with any record you make, it can never be perfect, you always want to keep changing things and tinkering with it. You just have to kind of draw the line somewhere because this doesn’t really make it better – it just makes it different from what it would have been. Looking back on ‘Psychocandy’ now it’s a bit like looking at an old photograph of ourselves or something, it crystallizes exactly what we were about at that point in time, but of course we change, but the record doesn’t.
VP: You’ve mentioned in the past that the idea of employing feedback and distortion almost as accompanying instruments coupled with Spectoresque melodies on ‘Psychocandy’was inspired by your love of the Shangri-Las and Einsturzende Neubauten. Did it piss you off that many dismissed you as dour sonic nihilists and essentially missed what great pop songs you’d actually written?
JIM: There were those that latched onto the feedback and then there were some that understood that there were songs, but very few people seemed to get it that we brought these two things together and this was really what it was all about, and that kind of pissed us off.
VP: How did you go about narrowing songs for the track list for ‘Psychocandy’, for example why was the actual track ‘Psycho candy’ omitted? Was it a difficult process or did it come together quite naturally?
JIM: I can’t really remember to be honest, I can remember the odd discussion I had with William about it – what should go on and what shouldn’t but generally I think it all kind of suggested itself quite naturally really, and I really cannot remember why the song ‘Psycho Candy’ didn’t make it onto the album.
VP: After the critical acclaim did you feel that the band were left in a “damned if you do/damned if you don’t” situation after the LP’s release? If you’d put out another LP of feedback and white noise you could have been slated for being one trick ponies with nothing new to offer and yet some fans moaned that the majestic and moody “Darklands” wasn’t “Psychocandy2 “ ?
JIM: Yes that’s exactly how it was after ‘Psychocandy’, I don’t know how it happened but there seemed to be a kind of backlash brewing, and we were of the opinion that whichever way we went would probably have been the wrong way. And after near nervous breakdowns we just thought ‘fuck it, let’s just make the record we want to make, and let people make of it what they will’.
VP: Again with the gift of hindsight do you think that you may have had another albums worth of material in the ‘Psychocandy’ vein? For example ‘Some Candy Talking’ and ‘Walk and Crawl’ could be considered perfect bridging points between JAMC 85 and JAMC 87 ?
JIM: Yes, I mean even if you look at all the b-sides at the ‘Psychocandy’ period and there were other songs we certainly could have made “Psychocandy 2′ if that’s we had wanted to do.
VP: What would you say are your favourite tracks from ‘Psychocandy’ ?
JIM: I can’t really think along those lines. It somehow seems a bit odd to talk in those terms about songs that we’ve made.
VP: Given that you’ve never been that keen on interviews did you find the whole PR side of the music industry a bit of a nightmare in the wake of ‘Psychocandy’s’ release?
JIM: I actually don’t mind doing interviews if I am talking to someone that seems to give a shit, or at least has done a reasonable amount of research. But I hated those press days where they were just wheeled in one ill prepared journalist after the other who would call me William and William, Jim. Yes that was a nightmare.
VP: ‘Psychocandy’s’ often cited by many fans as their favourite JAMC record, personally I’ve never been disappointed in any album you’ve released but which album would you say is your favourite and why ?
JIM: Again, bit like the earlier question really, but if you are putting a gun to my head I’ve always had a soft spot for ‘Honey’s Dead.’ Seems to be a little bit of everything on that record.
VP: You and also William have often said the Jesus and Mary Chain were a band who liked to shoot themselves in the foot, knowing what you know now about the oil that greases the machinery of the music bizz, what sort of things if any, would you have done differently ?
JIM: It’s not that we like to shoot ourselves in the foot, but it’s what we always seem to end up doing. We seem to have a knack for pissing people off, when we are genuinely trying to be friendly. I guess I am quite ill at ease in social situations, which goes someway to explaining why I got so heavily into drink, and I suppose drugs at this time, which is also the main reason we seemed to fuck up at every opportunity.
VP: As is the trend in music these days bands have often got back together to tour the anniversary of a certain album, Although you guys got back together in 2007 for a number of shows and festivals and for the Nick Sanderson tribute , were you not tempted to mark ‘Psychocandy’s’ anniversary with some gigs? Will the brothers unite again for the sake of rock n roll?
JIM: As far as ‘Psychocandy’ is concerned I wouldn’t rule it out, but the truth of the matter is it’s a very hard record to play live, Christ only knows how we managed to do it all those years ago, but we probably didn’t ! We were probably just so drunk that we thought we did.
Buy Pyschocandy here
“Never Understand” By The Jesus & Mary Chain
Upside Down-The Story Of Creation Records Trailer
(featuring interviews with Jim, Bobby Gillespie and what appears to be Parker from Thunderbirds.)
1. “Just Like Honey”
2. “April Skies”
3. “Blues From A Gun”
4. “Far Gone And Out”
5. “Some Candy Talking”
6. “Come On”
7. “Head On”
8. “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll”
9. “All Things Must Pass”
12. “Cracking Up”
13. “Upside Down”
14. “Never Understand”
15. “The Hardest Walk”
16. “Happy When It Rains”
17. “The Perfect Crime”
18. “Sometimes Always”
19. “Almost Gold”
21. “45 RPM”
1. “Half Way To Crazy”
2. “You Trip Me Up”
5. “Happy Place”
6. “Something I Can’t Have”
7. “I Hate Rock ‘n’ Roll”
8. “Tower Of Song”
9. “Vegetable Man”
10. “In A Hole”
11. “Kill Surf City”
12. “33 1/3″
13. “Cherry Came Too”
14. “Between Planets”
15. “Moe Tucker”
16. “Little Stars”
17. “God Help Me”
18. “New York City”
19. “Nine Million Rainy Days”