In a parallel rock ‘n’ roll universe somewhere, Phil Spector bursts into a recording studio brandishing a chainsaw, demands the knob-twiddling lackey on duty go to the nearest hardware store to snag twelve more, and eventually proceeds to replace his wall of guitars with a wall of switched-on chainsaws. Keeping the pop song, the singer, and a minimum of drums, he chops up the resulting sound into fourteen tracks, calls the band the Jesus and Mary Chain, and calls the album Psychocandy.
Well that scenario never actually happened, but the band and the album did. In late 1985, Scottish brothers William and Jim Reid and their band the Jesus and Mary Chain let loose a storm of songs, many indebted to the 1960s Spector style and all buried up to their sonic necks in feedback and distortion. The gorgeous single “Just Like Honey” opens the album – in fine “Be My Baby” style – with the drum intro from that very song. The rest of Psychocandy set the tone for the burgeoning “shoegaze” genre that would pour out of the U.K. in the early ’90s.
The band released five more albums and several compilations up until 1998, when – after numerous personnel changes, side projects, and, uh, disagreements, they called it quits. Then in the 2000s – like so many other old-but-suddenly-rejuvenated bands – the Jesus and Mary Chain reappeared, played a few festivals, put out a few greatest-hits box sets, and finally produced a new album, their first in nearly twenty years. Released in March 2017, Damage and Joy is their best in a long time, featuring piles of that wonderful JAMC catchiness/edginess, and showcased recently at the NYC stop of their current tour.
On November 17, 2017, the brothers Reid, along with current drummer Brian Young (formerly of NYC band Fountains of Wayne), bassist Mark Crozer (whose band Mark Crozer and The Rels opened the evening with an enjoyable set of Brit-rock), and guitarist Scott Von Ryper, pummeled an adoring audience at the PlayStation Theater with a blinding, colorful, strobe-driven light show and their trademark distortion-bathed pop-rock creations. In keeping with their earlier-days penchant for playing with their backs to the audience (often resulting in violence on the part of frustrated fans), the band members came off as unidentifiable, haze-engulfed silhouettes against the stage lights, which were trained more on the crowd than on the stage. Only singer Jim Reid appeared to have an actual face. Also in the background, the band’s name in ALLCAPSNOSPACES.
Jim Reid William Reid
Kicking off with Damage and Joy’s intense opener “Amputation,” the band propelled through greats like “Head On”* from 1989’s Automatic, “April Skies” from 1987’s Darklands, “Far Gone and Out” from 1992’s Honey’s Dead, plenty more from Damage and Joy like “Always Sad” (special guest vocalist Bernadette Denning), “Black and Blues” (special guest vocalist Skye Ferreira on the record but unfortunately not at the concert), and the scintillating “All Things Pass”* (no relation to George Harrison). Winding it all up, the frenzied 1992 single “Reverence.” A six-song encore including classics like “Just Like Honey,” “Cracking Up” from their 1998 album Munki, and the crowd-pleaser single “Sidewalking” sent the audience out into the night, ringing in their ears, spots before their eyes, and amazing songs reverberating in their reeling heads.
l-r: Scott Von Ryper, Mark Crozer, Brian Young
images courtesy en.wikipedia.org, twitter.com, njarts.net, howweare.net/© Angela Datre
YouTube videos courtesy RHINO, The Jesus and Mary Chain Official, njarts.net/SHARKYS NIGHT, njarts.net/Michael Kirik, pojk_tant
* live videos from the Stone Pony in Asbury Park, 11/16/17 but pretty close to the NYC performances