10 thoughts whilst watching the Jesus And Mary Chain play Psychocandy live in Newcastle Feb 2015 after supporting them with my band, the Membranes by John Robb.
1. Of course the gig is great – it’s a rollercoaster of noise, sound and beauty. A cascade of pent up emotion, sullen cool and thrilling guitar noise that is perfectly executed. Maybe this comeback is the Mary Chain’s finest hour. They return as veterans but with more fire than ever before and they take the jaded run through of the classic album format and make it into something really special and with an artful cool. It’s hypnotising and it’s very loud and my ears are still buzzing a day later. We already reviewed the band in Manchester last autumn and this time they make us think so much stuff that it has to be be a ten thoughts review.
2. When Jesus and Mary Chain chug on one chord they make it ache with pop perfection. The set is a run through of Pyschocandy and a run through of some of their greatest hits – a stark reminder of their knack of turning the simple three chord trick into a pop classic. Stripped down simplicity is the theatre the art of all great R ’n’ R – Marc Bolan / The Ramones / the Pistols and all the greats all knew this – they knew that the sheer poetry of the rock and the roll comes in its stripped to the core perfection.
3. Their charisma comes from the way that they are not natural performers – Jim Reid stands stock still holding onto the mic stand – this is not the pimp dancing of Mick Jagger or the flamboyant strut of a Prince but a council estate cool, a frozen in the hurricane of thrilling noise that howls around him as he intones his sonorous vocals, Reid invented the ‘stillism’ that Ian Brown and Liam Gallagher took to the mainstream – how nervous they may be as they play after all these years is part of their perfection – that studied cool and that vulnrability is what perfect rock ‘n’ roll is all about.
4. The Jesus And Mary Chain occupy a fascinating space in the history of things. They bridge the gap and join the noise underground of Einsturzende Neubaten and the sonic experiMENTALISTS of the post punk interzone to the indie mainstream of the Stone Roses (who adored them and you can hear the Mary Chain in all the Roses classic songs.) It’s an unlikely bridge but you can hear both ends of the sound in their set tonight – from the carving of the noise of Blixa Bargeld and his crew into pop classic – turning the ugly into the beautiful. This is a world where Joy Division and the Beach Boys can nestle together, a world where Phil Spector and sonic violence somehow combine, a world where classic 30 year old albums still sound contemporary.
5. I’m still amazed that Psychocandy was recorded in Southern studios in London – the sadly now closed studio in the front room of a house with the control room being the shed at the back. Somehow they made an enormous record in a tiny room, but then they did have the genius of the late John Loder behind the controls.
6. The guitar sounds like sheet metal as the gig gets louder and louder as it goes on – going off like a jet engine taking off as the volume is deliberatly cranked until it hits the sonic boom of the end of the set where it screeches like Public Image’s first album with all its inherent violence and nihilism and deeb throbbing bass and slabs of guitar noise.
7. The two brother dynamic is so key to great rock ‘n’ roll- Jim and William Reid skulking their way out of East Kilbride and into the heart of rock ‘n’ roll is the dream — in those days it was genuinely one of the few escape routes from the so called wastelands – these were the days before indie music became a public school playground losing all that desperation and anxiety that made it so great. The two brother dynamic is the heartbeat of all great noise and violence from the Kinks to the Reids to the Gallaghers and also to the brothers in proxy like Lennon / McCartney, Strummer / Jones etc – bonded tight into brotherhood by the rock and the roll.
8. The recently announced new album is fascinating – they are currently going backwards to go forwards, cleaning the decks for the next salvo and plotting a unique comeback – will playing Psychocandy remind them of their raw power? One of the few trips to the past that makes perfect sense it would fire anyone into the bring the noise with the dark heart romanticism that is the key.
9. The voice meshed in with coruscated guitar noise still sounds beautiful and vulnerable and is perfectly meshed inside the noise. The classic Creation sound in a sense- invented by the Mary Chain and there at the heart of My Bloody Valentine- the fierce high decibel guitars and the voice just above the surface creating the hypnotic drone.
10. How timeless Psychocandy really is … some classic albums sound like period pieces but this record remains untouchable and perfect like its forebearers like the Stooges, Pil, and Joy Division- serious rock music that you can take seriously, music that means everything and being played tonight even better than it was at the time.