The most unexpected thing about The Jesus and Mary Chain's debut album was that they made it at all. When they first started playing, their sets barely broke the double-figures minute mark. In part that was because they'd sometimes take the stage claiming to be the support band, and get on and off before anyone twigged. But albums they did make; half a dozen between the mid '80s and late '90s, and now comes Damage And Joy, their first in 18 years. So how to buy JAMC?
The impressive debut (with Bobby Gillespie, later of Primal Scream, on drums) wherein Scotland's Reid brothers Jim and William introduced their brand of loud, discordant, feedback-infused guitars to classic pop structures. They drew as much from The Beach Boys and Phil Spector's girl groups as the Velvet Underground. UK shoegaze was invented here, and so was the sound of JAMC… which they would subsequently refine.
Here the melodies went up many notches (the soaring Happy When It Rains), searing guitars occasionally came down (the title track), and a tastefully-used drum machine came in after Gillespie's departure. Influences were more from Lou Reed's VU and solo ballads (Deep One Perfect Morning, Nine Million Rainy Days), but behind the indie rock bluster JAMC were essentially a dark power pop-rock band (April Skies). Critics were unimpressed but they were wrong: Darklands is essential if you enjoy shameless, fist-pumping indie rock.
Honey's Dead (1992)
Critics were right to dismiss third album Automatic (1989) which might have been retitled Autopilot, even if fans loved it and Americans finally got it. The Yanks might have recoiled at the opener on this next album. Reverence offers “I wanna die like Jesus Christ,” and the album divided critics and loyalists. Yes, the whispered menace and feedback returned, but at its best this slewed straight into screamadelic grunge. However it was great fun… and that was a rare commodity at the time. It stands up.
In this four-CD set, sources are displayed on the covers (Bo Diddley, The Beach Boys, Motown, Howling Wolf, Elvis); it's comprised of unexpected oddities (Prince's Alphabet Street?) alongside acoustic demos of their classic singles, B-sides not on albums, and so much more. In fact, you could start here and work back.
You can score the first five JAMC studio albums at JB Hi-Fi in the budget-priced Rhino Original Album Series, which includes all the first three above, plus Stoned And Dethroned from 1994 (with guests Shane MacGowan of the Pogues and Hope Sandoval of Mazzy Star). Shoegaze sometimes but, given the right ingredients, JAMC were always skygaze too.