Friday, 20 February 2015

The Jesus And Mary Chain

19th February 2015

 Edinburgh Corn Exchange

I have, I admit, never quite been able to take The Jesus and Mary Chain totally seriously.  I have always felt there to be a rather contrived almost pantomime aspect to the Reid brothers' personas.  I sometimes wonder if this is perhaps because I am old enough to remember when they first arrived on the scene some thirty years back, the whole manner of their arrival screaming Hype.
Whenever I think of those early days of The J&MC I am always put in mind of those scenes in Julian Temple’s The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle where Malcolm McLaren (aided by the delectable Soo Catwoman) recites a series of “How to Manufacture Your Group” instructions:

First establish the name, quoth Malc – and in the choice of their band name the Reid brothers calculatingly succeeded in layering in blasphemy with S&M and (whisper  it) even a hint of incest?  The image came next; those burst-mattress haircuts, pitiably glum expressions and the Velvets shades appeared at the time so contrived as to be almost laughable

Finally it was, hey, let’s do our best to have a single banned by the BBC – hence the deliberately ambiguous lyric of Some Candy Talking; either a punter  seeking a chemical hit, or just some lonely innocent looking for love.  The band, of course, insisted the latter.
The Jesus and Mary Chain - Edinburgh 2015

Given that the Reid brothers were generation contemporaries of mine I was more than a little keen to see how they had worn over the preceding thirty years.  Well, singer Jim is still pencil-thin but is now sporting a remarkably sensible haircut – indeed, looking not unlike the sort of chap who may serve you in a building society or attempt to sell you double glazing.
Big Bro William the guitarist has, by remarkable contrast, persevered with the 80s look, but having piled on a significant amount of beef now resembles some cross between a pre-gastric band Jack Osborne and Robert Smith on a bad-hair day.
The Jesus and Mary Chain - Edinburgh 2015

Although they knew most folks were here to hear the Psychocandy album, the lads were confident enough to open the evening with a short, dare I call it, greatest hits set, laying down what I regard as their trump card first: April Skies.  This was swiftly followed up by an equally impressive rendition of Head On from their 1989 album Automatic.
The aforementioned naughty Some Candy Talking dropped the tempo a touch, but after two crystal clear performances, Jim proceeded to slur and mumble his way through this one, as the vocals were (deliberately I am sure) progressively buried into the mix as the volume was incrementally cranked up as the show progressed.  Jim’s voice appeared to revive during In a Hole and You Trip Me Up during the Psychocandy set, but mostly it was entombed way, way down in the mix.

Not that many folks would have some along to hear Jim’s vocal prowess I am sure, more to experience the lads' trademark Wall of Noise.  The evening’s highlight for me was a crashing version of Reverence, which morphed into that challenging piece of sonic attack Upside Down.  Later events would make this one sound almost mainstream, but by the time this latter song closed the first set what we were experiencing had begun to sound like thirty school kids all scraping their fingernails down a blackboard, as their bored teacher monotoned on in the background about the square of the hypotenuse equalling the sum of the squares of the other two sides.  Or something.
During a short break we were treated to some delightfully kitsch Pathe-News film footage informing us just how wonderful East Kilbride is;  this being the Scottish New Town (or it was new back in the mid-1950) which spawned the Reids.

The Psychocandy album was then played straight through almost note-for-note (if such a phrase is not an oxymoron where the J&MC are concerned).  And therein lay the problem for a relatively casual J&MC listener like myself.  For whilst Psychocandy certainly boasts some fine tunes (Just Like Honey, The Hardest Walk, Never Understand)  it also houses a number (The Living End, Something’s Wrong, My Little Underground ) which each mine that same thrashing feedback vein.

The consequence being that once we had all reached the squalling nightmare of It’s So Hard I doubt very much if many of the folks in the room had not reached and exceeded their feedback saturation point.

One plus point though was the decibel levels meant I was able to experience some of the gig all over again not only on my drive home, but also subsequently lying in bed, as my ears thrummed away not unpleasantly.

Now that is what I call value for money.


April Skies
Head On
Some Candy Talking
Up Too High
Upside Down


Just Like Honey
The Living End
Taste The Floor
The Hardest Walk
Cut Dead
In a Hole
Taste of Cindy
Never Understand
Inside Me
Sowing Seeds
My Little Underground
You Trip Me Up
Something’s Wrong
It’s So Hard


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