Damage and Joy – The Jesus and Mary Chain (ADA/Warner)
It’s been a long wait – 18 years since their last offering – and fans of The Jesus and Mary Chain, like myself, have surely been hanging out for the band’s ninth studio album, Damage and Joy.
The enduring brothers-Reid from Glasgow are back with 14 tracks of quintessential J&MC grungey guitar pop. They haven’t strayed from their traditional style: bass heavy rhythms, acerbic lyrics, wiry guitar breaks, prominent tambourine and electronic distortion. It’s not just for the diehards though. Any lover of guitar rock will hear the obvious likenesses to Ash, The Dandy Warhols, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and Brian Jonestown Massacre. But this isn’t a rip-off. It’s the classic Mary Chain sound that’s been so influential since the mid-80s.
Like their live performances, J&MC have toned the fuzz and feedback right down. I remember seeing them at The Metro in Melbourne in the 90s and it was so foggy and dim with dry ice, the band were merely ghostly silhouettes making eerie but crazed musical noise. Years later, at the same venue renamed The Palace Theatre, the lights were up and the fuzz was all but tamed.
It only takes one verse of opening track, ‘Amputation’, to be reassured that the Mary Chain sound hasn’t faltered. It’s like a direct homage to ‘Reverance’ (from 1992’s Honey’s Dead) and is destined to be an earworm (“…Fucked up girls love drugged up guys… that won’t keep me warm at night… I’m a rock’n’roll amputation…”). ‘Mood Rider’ is broody with its melancholy melody. ‘Presidici Et Chapaquiditch’ is one of many that prompt you to play air-tambourine and sing along in the car. Duets are plentiful, including ‘Black and Blues’, featuring Californian singer, Sky Ferreria. Another fellow Glaswegian, Isobel Campbell adds her honeyed vocals to ‘Song for a Secret’, which is like a remake of ‘Sometimes Always’ (from 1994’s Stoned and Dethroned and featuring Hope Sandoval). ‘The Two of Us’ also features Campbell, and both songs have previously been released by Jim Reid either solo or in his other band, Freeheat.
There is a lot to love about this album – the catchy tunes, the duets, the classic Mary Chain sound. Their sound, a rock’n’roll sound that is instantly recognisable, like The Modern Lovers or The Ramones. Damage and Joy is not trying to be a revival of Psychocandy, but definitely justifies the Reid brothers’ long awaited reunion.