In a perfect world, one wouldn't have to explain the Jesus and Mary Chain. But in a perfect world, their albums wouldn't have been out of print for nearly a decade.
It's hard to believe it's been 20 years since the group released the dizzyingly groundbreaking Psychocandy album, a 14-cut hallucination of feedback that recontextualized the possibilities of guitar rock. What's even harder to believe is that for nearly half of those years, Psychocandy and the bulk of the JAMC's catalog has been unavailable in the United States. A constant touchstone and a consistent presence on various 'most influentialâ?� lists, the band's oeuvre apparently didn't make enough cash registers ring to warrant its continued production. Go figure.
Thankfully, that neglect has now been remedied, and quite impressively. Reissued as DualDiscs, the first five JAMC albums benefit from a stellar remastering job; the inclusion of a 'high resolutionâ?� stereo mix and various music videos helps make each a conclusive presentation. (Well, almost. Would it have been so hard to include a selection of the band's many B-sides? Or, more specifically, how about the never-before-on-CD cover of 'Vegetable Man?â?�)
For the uninitiated, here's a quick history. Two decades ago, two drug-addled Velvet Underground fans from Scotland, brothers Jim and William Reid, formed a band that was three parts abusive noise, two parts catchy pop. Early live performances were short ' usually less than 15 minutes ' and notably audience-unfriendly, consisting primarily of sheets of feedback presented with the band's backs to the crowd. The ultra-anticipated Psychocandy came out in 1985, and a tour was undertaken that cemented the Mary Chain's reputation as riot-starters. Drummer Bobby Gillespie left to start Primal Scream at the tour's conclusion. The mopier and less assaultive Darklands album came out in 1987, and the band irritated fans again by touring with a tape machine as their drummer.
A tentative return to form occurred with the muscular, guitar-drenched Automatic in 1989. The Pixies covered that album's 'Head Onâ?� on their Trompe le Monde a mere two years later, and by all rights, 1992 should have been the year that the Mary Chain conquered the world with their Honey's Dead disc. That recording focused their squeals of fiery feedback into laser-blast pop songs undergirded with throbbing percussion sequences. Despite a run on Lollapalooza, innumerable soundtrack appearances and a general feeling that it was their turn, success wasn't in the cards.
The 1994 follow-up disc, Stoned & Dethroned ' a Bobby Gillespie-style change-up into rustic Americana ' effectively ended any hopes that the Mary Chain would ever be as rich as they were important. One more album, 1998's Munki, was released on Sub Pop, but the brothers Reid dissolved the band while on tour that year.
In all, the Mary Chain had a decade-plus run that any distortion-heavy pop band should be proud of. But they also suffered from the same fate as their idols, The Velvet Underground: They never sold many records, but everyone who bought one started a band. Knowing that everyone from My Bloody Valentine to Nine Inch Nails to Nirvana owes a debt to the Reid brothers must make them smile a little, but it doesn't pay the light bill.
Hopefully, these meticulously remastered reissues will remedy that situation, both by restoring the albums to their best possible sonic state and, more importantly, to record store shelves.
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