Archive for Jim Reid

The Jesus And Mary Chain Are Back From The Dead and The Hallelujah Chorus Is Awesome To Behold

Posted in Music with tags , , , on March 26, 2017 by johnbuckley100

It may be apocryphal, but James Joyce is alleged to have said about Finnegans Wake, “It took me 17 years to write it, and it should take 17 years to read it.”  I thought of that when, 19 years after their best album, Munki, was released into the wild, The Jesus and Mary Chain put out its followup, Damage And Joy.

When a band comes back from the dead — or in the Mary Chain’s case, from reforming only to tour, not release new music — they’ve already heard all the nice things said about them at their funeral.  The Reid brothers broke up their act in 1998 either because they’d brought it to what they thought was its conclusion, or they just couldn’t take another day together.  But of course, even before they went back on the road some years ago, the Jesus and Mary Chain have lived on in the form of all those bands who saw what they had done — graft Velvet Underground songwriting and guitar chords onto the possibilities of drum machines and new recording technology — and were inspired.

In the time since they metaphorically burned their guitars, a lot has happened, and we’re not talking about all of the nasty changes in our world since the boom days of the late Clinton Administration.  Jim Reid got sober.  JAMC’s festival shows led to semi-regular touring, and despite — or because of — they way they turned the amps to 11, a new generation of fans for whom Psycho Candy was as distant, in some ways, as The Velvet Underground & Nico, saw them as the masters that they were.  It became inevitable that they would release new recorded music.

We were unprepared for how great an album Damage And Joy is.  Purists may not like it because it’s not Finnegans Wake, it’s not difficult, it’s Dubliners: simple, easy to absorb, damn near perfect.  By the time December rolls around, we are certain it will remain high on our list of the year’s best albums.  It’s the Jesus and Mary Chain album we have waited for, somewhat anxiously, for a long, long time.

We confess that we never loved Psycho Candy all that much.  The juxtaposition of Beach Boys’ songs, Sterling Morrison guitar, and Ramones’ propulsion against an industrial squall was interesting, but in many ways unlistenable.  Darklands was where we fell in love, with its spaciousness and gorgeous songwriting coalescing into a sound we could embrace.  Through those early ’90s hits, we hung on as they created a machine that was an early precursor of EDM while maintaining its linkage to real rock’n’roll.  For us, Stoned and Dethroned was the keeper, the classic, the songwriting at a peak, the wrestling match between melodies and riffs, between Jim’s hoarse whisper-singing and William’s guitar textures becoming not only one of the ’90s highlights, but an album for the ages.  When Munki came out in 1998 — perhaps rock’s greatest year — it was the culmination and the end of the line, Jim and William’s ambivalence — and conflict — were captured in the songs that began and ended the album: “I Love Rock’n’Roll” followed by “I Hate Rock’n’Roll.”  But now they are back, and for the moment the ambivalence is gone.  Whatever happens from here, The Jesus and Mary Chain have returned from the dead, and the Hallelujah chorus is awesome to behold.

On The Reissue Of The Jesus and Mary Chain’s “Munki”: An Appreciation

Posted in Music with tags , , , , on October 16, 2011 by johnbuckley100

Few bands go out on such a high as The Jesus and Mary Chain, whose final record, Munki, both followed the Vaudeville adage of “always leave ’em wanting something more,” and seemed a perfect evocation of all the chaos and glory the Reids packed into their years as a band of brothers.  That the album began with Jim Reid singing “I Love Rock’n’Roll” and ended with William Reid singing “I Hate Rock’n’Roll” was such a perfect distillation of the dichotomy at work, of course they had to leave it there.

Thirteen years later, Edsel Records is releasing (alas, for now, only on the other side of the pond) a full set of the Mary Chain’s work, replete with B-sides, live sets, and an excellent archival series of booklets commemorating this amazing band.  The liner notes for Munki have interviews with both brothers, Jim now sober, William living in LA, talking seriously about the ragged way the band went out.  But oh, what an album to have left us with.

As the interviews make clear, Munki was recorded by two bands, Jim’s and William’s.  They were rarely in the studio together by this time.  But Munki was a distillation of what made JAMC so magical — from the sweet melodies to the discordant squall of William’s guitar, the Mary Chain was always a competition of visions literally connected by the same DNA.  Throwing the Cramps, Velvet Underground, and Brian Wilson into a blender that shorted out spectacularly and noisily created a sound, not just for the ’90s, but for the ages.  We have long thought that “Virtually Unreal” was the greatest single song the Mary Chain produced, and of course it comes close to containing all of the parts that made them great: Jim’s great rock’n’roll voice, William’s great rock’n’roll guitar, a propulsive beat, the raggedy edges of a sound schizophrenics likely hear when things are going either terribly right or terribly wrong.

Several of the extras thrown in on Disc Two of the reissue were already released in the massive Power of Negative Thinking, the seemingly encyclopedic post-breakup compendium.  But some were not: incredible live takes from the band’s final, combustible tours, BBC sessions that’ll blow your mind, and the album finishes with a live version of “Virtually Unreal.”

What the extras also show is just what a death trip folks involved here were on.  We’re not referring to the Jesus and Mary Chain, but to their label, Warner Bros.  This all happened in 1998, before Napster genuinely threatened to disintermediate the labels, with the labels offering, through greed and stupidity, near justification for it.  Warner Bros.’ treatment of Munki a preview of what would happen three years hence, when what once had been the music industry’s most creative and artist-focused label revealed just how desperate they were to destroy themselves — we’re talking of their rejection of Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, a classic album of the age, because it wasn’t commercial enough.  Warner Bros, you see, rejected Munki.  It just didn’t have potential, they said.  They were happy to let it walk out the door and be released by Creation, as boneheaded a move as, say, the New York Jets letting Danny Woodhead go to the Patriots.  Listening now to two of the (included) highlights from The Power of Negative Thinking, “Bleed Me” and “Rocket” — recorded as part of the Munki sessions — and thinking about Munki’s greatness, you have to wonder just what the record execs of this era were smoking.  I mean, we know what William Reid was smoking, and we know how much Jim Reid was drinking and snorting.  But as evidenced by Munki, theirs was clear-eyed brilliance compared to the morons who didn’t think this was a record worth releasing.

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