Posts Tagged ‘psychocandy’

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Jesus and Mary Chain: Darklands (1987)

October 11, 2013

darklands

Roll: 3-9-16
Album: Jesus and Mary Chain, Darklands — 2011 2CD/1DVD reissue

Until Stoned and Dethroned (1994) came out, Darklands (1987) was always my least favourite Jesus and Mary Chain record. It didn’t deliver what I wanted from JAMC. Sure, “Happy When It Rains“, boasts the mechanical post-modern rock’n’roll sound I loved on Automatic (1989), but not to the same extent; like it was a demo for that later album’s whole sound. But more importantly, and more detrimentally, Darkands famously abandons the “savage noise-pop” of Psychocandy (1985). To me Darklands was always a sort of nebulous, half-formed, netherworld of an album. So, in a way, one of their most aptly titled collections.

Over the years I’ve remained eternally hopeful and every time I listen to Darklands I expect to hear something in it I’d previously missed. Some hint of the magic and brilliance that’s been ascribed to it by music journalists, fans and bloggers in the years since it’s release. And though I’ll admit it never sounds as bad as I remember, I’ve never been able to hear it as other than a lethargic, boring mid-tempo folk-rock record marred by some pretty glaringly cheesy ’80s production.

I’ve never been sure if it’s just the song arrangements that never worked for me, but the John Hughes-style drum machines really don’t help matters. And I normally love me some grandiose ’80s drum machines, yet somehow I’ve always felt they sound entirely out of place on Darklands. To my ears, the album begs for an organic Sam Phillips/Sun Studio-style production. The songs are essentially a post-punk take on The Everly Brothers and deserve a more human touch.

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Jesus and Mary Chain: Psychocandy (2CD+DVD)

November 18, 2011

Jesus and Mary Chain PsychocandyRoll: 3-2-13
Album: Jesus and Mary Chain, Psychocandy

My introduction to The Jesus and Mary Chain wasn’t the seminal noise-pop classic,  Psychocandy, but their third studio effort, Automatic (1989). It was the tape I bought after a girl named Thai showed me their singles and B-sides compilation, Barbed Wire Kisses (1988). It sounded pretty good to me, especially the catchy head-nodder “Sidewalking.” But what I immediately gravitated to wasn’t Mary Chain’s natural strengths—Phil Spector by way of a jet engine factory—but the deep, distorted guitars mixed with tight, mechanized, drum machine beats. It’s the sound producer Alan Moulder took to the extreme on Automatic. I didn’t know it at the time but I was really looking for Ministry‘s Land of Rape and Honey, and not Mary Chain at all. I’d figure it out a few months later.

I also don’t think I particularly cared for Mary Chain’s screeching-train-wheels aesthetic. I liked my noise beaten into submission and not allowed to roam dangerously free. It’d be a few years before I really began to appreciate and enjoy truly  “industrial” music. And I certainly didn’t like anything that sounded like a ’60s girl-group song my parents might have danced to at the hop. I’d already had my dalliance with golden era rock’n’roll a few years earlier with La Bamba and now it just sounded old and lame.

But industrial noise and golden era rock’n’roll are, of course, what Psychocandy is all about. Or, as Jim Reid says in the liner notes for this reissue, “wouldn’t it be great if Einsturzende Neubauten had Shangri-Las songs—why doesn’t somebody do that, let’s do that!”

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