If ‘Munki’ was the Jesus And Mary Chain‘s break up album then ‘Damage And Joy’ is the album that finally saw quarrelling brothers William and Jim Reid, bury the hatchet. The album title could be interpreted as neatly summing up the Mary Chain’s 30-year career although it actually relates to the German word Schadenfreude, the sense of pleasure in the misfortune of others, Schaden – “damage, misfortune” and Freude “joy.”
The album, which at 54 minutes is essentially a double album (or a discography if you’re Napalm Death!) proves yet again that nobody does the Mary Chain better than the Mary Chain. ‘Pyschocandy’is now accepted as one of the most influential indie albums ever released, indeed one can only wonder if My Bloody Valentine may have continued to sound like a rather fey jangley version of Freddy and the Dreamers if it were not for the Mary Chain. Back in the day there were always critics desperate to write the Reids off as one trick ponies, but rather inconveniently the boys continued to produce classic albums, every album being subtly different from the previous release, whilst still being identifiable as the Mary Chain. They continued to write songs about their favourite themes – pop culture, heartbreak, misery, sex, drugs, alcohol, guns, rock n roll, MTV, JFK, love and redemption and have never produced anything less than wonderful. Not unsurprisingly these are the themes that the brothers often return to on ‘Damage And Joy’ their first album for almost twenty years, and one which is as good as anything they’ve previously released. It’s a welcome and fitting addition to their peerless body of work. It’s classic Mary Chain, and everything the fans could have wished for. Seriously did we really want or expect an experimental album? Jim singing a reveb soaked version of ‘Mr. Boombastic?’perhaps ? (he actually did this at the soundcheck in Manchester recently!) It’s an intriguing mixture of new songs and a collection of Jim and William Reid’s solo demos, many only previously on the radar of die hard fans, but without doubt tunes which were far too good to simply be discarded without being given the full Mary Chain treatment. It’s also an album that also proves that whilst Jim and William are fine artists in their own right, together they are an unstoppable force.
‘Amputation’ a reworking of one of Jim’s earlier songs ‘Dead End Kids’ is a perfect opening statement , – we’ve been away but now we’re back – it was written at a time when he felt the band were treated as something of a bête noire and had been ‘cut dead’ by the music industry , “It felt at that time as if we were living in exile, as if we were surplus to requirements” Jim mused in a recent interview. “War on Peace” harks back to the moodiness of classic JAMC tunes such as “Nine Million Rainy Days” and ends with William’s guitar exploding into life for the first time on the album for a glorious finale. “All Things Pass” the band’s only previous new release in the last twenty years gets a muscular reworking and it’s at this point you really get the sense that this is going to be something of a triumphant return. Then follow three duets, “Always Sad” features Jim harmonising beautifully with William’s partner Bernadette Denning, ‘Song For A Secret’ and ‘The Two Of Us’ features an elegant, understated performance from Isobelle Campbell, whilst sister Linda joins in on the glorious “Los Feliz (Blues And Greens)”. ‘Mood Rider’ is huge whilst ‘ Presidici (Et Chapaquiditch)’ previously known to fans simply as “the Kennedy Song” is sublime and really should be the next single.
Elsewhere a more recent Jim Reid demo ‘Black and Blues’ is transformed into an uplifting reverberating full throttle rocker with Sky Ferreira having previously lent her magic to Primal Scream’s ‘Where The Light Gets In’ casting a spell yet again and the perfect foil for Jim’s heartfelt delivery. The album closes with a cannily reworked version of ‘Can’t Stop The Rock’, previously recorded on sister Linda’s excellent album ‘Little Pop Rocks’ under her Sister Vanilla monicker (also written and produced by her brothers) and it provides a perfect finale to cap a genuinely magnificent return. It demonstrates what many critics, still in the thrall of the band’s controversial legend, so often miss, the fact, that the Mary Chain, rather than being sulky misanthropists often meld explosive guitar riffs with tender, soulful, raw honesty, which is , if psycho candy were an actual genre, what they have always been about – the juxtaposition. It’s also the band’s most optimistic sounding album yet and prompts the hope that the balance has finally shifted and that the upcoming years yield far less damage and much more joy for the Reids. They certainly deserve it.
DAMAGE AND JOY – LIVE
So, how do the new songs fit alongside the classics, well at their recent gig in Manchester (25.03.17 – photos above) it felt seamless and the band have never sounded better, they truly are on fire at the moment!
Remaining UK dates
Tue March 28 2017 – O2 Academy, Leicester
Wed March 29 2017 – O2 Academy, Bristol
Fri March 31 2017 – O2 Institute, Birmingham
Sat April 01 2017 – O2 Academy, Bournemouth
Sun April 02 2017 – O2 Academy, Oxford
Mon April 03 2017 – Junction 1, Cambridge
Wed April 05 2017 – O2 Shepherds Bush Empire, London
Thu April 06 2017 – De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill On Sea
Fri April 07 2017 – Academy, Dublin
2 thoughts on “The Jesus And Mary Chain – Damage And Joy”
Wonderful review Andy. Your perspective on it all is always important to me. Though I have to chuckle at your now-expected MBV dig. 😉 As good as your writing is here – its now the pictures that really impress. Excellent piece all around.