Album Review – Jesus and Mary Chain

Jesus and Mary Chain

Jesus and Mary Chain -‘Live At Barrowlands.’ (Demon)

There they came. A band who took no prisoners, led by two brothers whose fractious relationship would see them put Alan McGee’s Creation records on the map and implode spectacularly a decade and a half later, having created some utterly spellbounding music, and releasing a debut album that would overshadow much of their subsequent output.

If you think that I’m talking about Oasis and the Gallagher brothers…well I could have been, but to many people, the Mary Chain did far more to shake up rock’n’roll than Oasis ever did. That debut album, Psychocandy, now celebrates its thirtieth anniversary. In doing so they paved the way for much of c-86 and shoegazing, and influenced an entire generation of people determined to push forward what guitar music could do. This, then, is a live document of the reformation shows which took place last year at Glasgow’s legendary Barrowlands venue.

While some artists create such a strong piece of work with their debut album that everything subsequent makes them look like Orson Welles, producing great work but unable to truly equal it (have you ever met anyone who seriously thinks that Lloyd Cole has equaled Rattlesnakes?), the Mary Chain did produce some great songs subsequently, and the album kicks off with a selection of these. So we get their two top ten hits ‘April Skies’ and ‘Reverence’. The latter is particularly strong, and indeed long, here. Rarely has nihilism sounded so utterly cool. We also get that astonishing debut single ‘Upside Down’, the banned from Radio 1 because it was ‘obviously’ about heroin ‘Some Candy Talking’ and the song ‘Psychocandy’ which wasn’t actually on the album. Alas, I wasn’t at the gig, but this truly brings me (and anyone else listening) as close as we will come.

Debate rages about whether bands should reform at all, and whether there’s any point in doing shows or tours which focus on one classic album. Whilst the thought of watching a dead horse being flogged may be depressing, I wonder how many of those who sneer really would rather starve than pay the bills and put food on the table. The fact is it may not be for money – classic albums are worth celebrating -and if they do it with as much style as the Mary Chain do it here, it underlines just how damn good the original record is. (And – here’s a thought – supposing you were too young to be there the first time round?)

So yes, the second part of the album is Psychocandy played in its entirety. From the opening ‘Just Like Honey’ to the closing ‘It’s So Hard’ what is delivered is a fantastic set that shows an album that truly is seminal, and which live sounds like it made the Barrowlands sweat rock’n’roll even more than it usually does onto its sticky floors. The brothers Reid – and their hired helps – were truly on fire on this night, and only added to an already impressive legacy. This is not an album to replace the original studio album, nor do I imagine it was conceived as such. It’s a welcome addition to their catalogue, and a reminder of why they were so utterly necessary.


Live At Barrowlands is released on Demon on July 31.

3 thoughts on “Album Review – Jesus and Mary Chain

  1. Hi Ed, I turned down a ticket for the Barras gig. I’m not a big fan of the reforming and living off past glories unless it’s SLF, of course. I have a novel idea about paying the bills and that is to produce something new and interesting enough that people would want to buy it, if Smith and Gedge can do it why can’t they and I hardly think the Reid brothers will be on the breadline. I swapped a copy of the RSD day release of this for a copy of the RSD release of Psychocandy from a few years ago. I thought about forking 50 quid out for this release but then thought better of it. I find the album a bit flat. I’ve always loved the Mary Chain, they changed my musical world in 1984 but live they were either a shambles but exciting or quite boring.
    I suspect that there were very few people at the recent gigs who were too young to have seen them the first time.

  2. I alas was too young to see them in 1984 (I think I would have been terrified), and alas couldn’t afford to go…

  3. They are rumoured to be working on a new studio album, which will be interesting. I did like the album they did with their sister as Sister Vanilla

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