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Saturday 18 November 2017

Jesus and Mary chain have returned with old treasure

A good dose of controversy has never done a band's reputation any harm at all. Anyone who remembers what gobby little upstarts the Manic Street Preachers were when they emerged at the start of the 90s won't need reminding of that and now they're regarded as elder statesmen and have just released their 12th album, the eurocentric and rather wonderful Futurology.

And while the Jesus and Mary Chain haven't quite achieved that status just yet, they were quite the firebrands back in the day.

Formed in the tough Glasgow district of East Kilbride in 1983 by brothers William and Jim Reid, they were one of the earliest signings to Alan McGee's Creation label, topping the indie charts at the end of the following year with Upside Down, a warped slice of fuzzy pop. The Mary Chain's sound could be described as Beach Boys-style surf pop with lashings of feedback over the top.

Oh, and attitude by the bucketload.

By the time they were ready to release their debut album Psychocandy in 1985, they'd garnered a reputation for being confrontational towards audiences, a tag which was to be set in stone at a gig in North London Poly in March of that year when the crowd, many of whom arrived expecting aggro, rioted and caused the plug to be pulled barely 10 minutes into the show.

Anticipation

All of which set up plenty of press expectation for the album, anticipation which was deserved.

Preceded by the singles Never Understand, You Trip Me Up and Just Like Honey, Psychocandy was a wonderfully condensed encapsulation of everything people imagined the JAMC to be. Here were simple but refined melodies backed by artful noise and it worked wonderfully.

For a while things got even better, with the fabulous single Some Candy Talking followed in 1987 by the Darklands album, which gave added heft to their sound while gifting us two more fantastic singles in Happy When it Rains and April Skies. However, things became somewhat predictable on a musical level and the inevitable sibling rivalry meant that singer Jim Reid didn't even speak to his older brother for a good few years.

The good news is that sweetness and (relative) light have returned to the camp with the Psychocandy tour getting a sneak preview in Vicar Street this coming Thursday. We trust original Mary Chain fans won't be in the mood for storming the stage after a quarter of an hour, given today's ticket prices.

George Byrne

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