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Know When To Fold ‘Em: The Sad Case of Jesus And Mary Chain’s Munki

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By Joseph Kyle

Case File: Jesus And Mary Chain’s Munki

In the annals of rock’n’roll, William and Jim Reid have a nice little exhibit. From the noisy, mischievous fun of Psychocandy, to the melancholy pop-rock of Darklands, Automatic and Honey’s Dead, to the stoned-out joy of Stoned & Dethroned – not to mention so many B-sides to warrant three collections over a ten year period – their discography is, for the most part, a joy.

And then there’s Munki. God, I hated that record when it came out. Bloated, uneven, and a mess; for the one or two songs that are good, there are three or four that aren’t. But there were warning signs that the band should have called it a day, and the band members’ quotes below, taken from the reissue of Munki, seem to show a hindsight that was, sadly, lacking.

If your band has or is experiencing one of the following, you might want to call it quits:

1. You spend more time at pub than in the studio

In the liner notes to Stoned & Dethroned, band member Ben Lurie relates this: “It was during the recording of ‘I Hate Rock’N’Roll’ that the pub slipped into the equation. We’d pop over there while Dick Meany was setting up a mix or working on a drum sound or whatever, and we’d have a few pints. By the time we were recording Munki, we ended up over there a lot and sometimes didn’t make it back to the studio that day … Everything sounds great after a few beers, but often in the cold light of day we’d discover that what had sounded amazing yesterday was rubbish today.”

2. The ones who gave you your career reject your newest record

Jim Reid: “We sent the masters over to Geoff Travis, and he phoned me up and said it just wasn’t good enough. I couldn’t believe it … “

Ben Lurie: “Then we gave a tape of mixes to Geoff and Jeannette at Blanco and it all began to unravel. They didn’t like it at all. Geoff said something along the lines of, ‘Throw the baby out with the bathwater’ – he was suggesting we start again.”

Jim Reid: “We went in and had a meeting with Rob Dickins, and he said, “We’ll put it out if you want us to, but you don’t really want us to”, and when we asked what he meant, he went, ‘Nobody’s into it, we’ll stick it out and do nothing – go and get someone who wants to release it’.”

Major labels may or may not be the devil, take your pick, but when the people who have been directly involved in your career tell you that what you made is no good, it might seem quite simple to dismiss said opinions as wrong – and at times they may very well be – but you might want to pay heed. And it doesn’t matter who you are; look at the well-established #genius’ like Brian Wilson; go listen to Sweet Insanity and/or his song ‘Smart Girls’, and tell me if the record execs weren’t wrong in shelving it.

3. You and your creative partner can’t stand to be in the same room

Jim Reid: “Towards the end we argued about anything … If I’d say, ‘Turn the sound up on the telly’, he would say, ‘Turn it down!'”

The core of the band has always been two people. One’s a singer, the other’s a guitarist. You’re both the heart of the band. If you can’t stand each other in the studio, do you think going through the rounds after the album comes out is going to make things better? Witness: the House of Blues fiasco.

4. The artwork is cheap, and looks as if it was done at home 15 minutes before it was due

Seriously. I’ve made better-looking covers for mixtapes using Photoshop. The only redeeming quality is they didn’t use Comic Sans.

5. You write a song and your musical partner writes a fuck-you response to it

Though the following rule should be remembered, ‘I Hate Rock’N’Roll’ is a great song about their frustrations. Jim Reid’s response, ‘I Love Rock’N’Roll’? Not so much. Was it done out of spite? There’s no way to tell, but considering Jim’s words above, it’s hard not to think so. Sibling contradiction does run both ways.

(continues overleaf)

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