The Jesus and Mary Chain – Damage and Joy – Album Review by Killian Laher
I approached this one with excitement and dread in equal measure. Since the Jesus and Mary Chain released their last album Munki nineteen (19!) years ago there have been a plethora of imitators, taking the Reid brothers’ grim aesthetic of growled guitars and vocals married to poppy melodies and repurposing it for themselves. There’s been little heard from them since 1998, so an album like this is going to be viewed as a ‘comeback’. But with Jim and William Reid in their late fifties, what sort of Jesus and Mary Chain would it be?
The album opens with Amputation, which is far from the strongest track, but it re-establishes their sound, two or three fuzzy chords and bored-sounding singing. This one and All Thing Pass are two of several ‘re-purposed’ tracks from various releases. The latter has far more bite to it and is as strong as… well anything on their B-sides collection anyway. The Two of Us is one of several duets, this one with Isobel Campbell but this rocks considerably more than Belle and Sebastian, Reid sounding almost passionate as he sings “you’re the reason I’m alive”. Mood Rider is the centrepiece and probably the strongest thing here. While it doesn’t sound particularly like your signature JAMC rocker, the guitars growl harder and actually cut loose for one of the few times on this album. Facing Up To The Facts is almost as strong, but with fourteen tracks on the album the quality can dip with the relatively pleasant but throwaway Presidici and Get On Home.
It’s not all rockers, War on Peace and Always Sad are almost sixties sounding ballads with a sort of understated cool though the former unaccountably speeds up for its last minute. This sort of mid-paced groove suits them, particularly on the sunny sounding Isobel Campbell duet Song for a Secret, which is a little like an update of their late-period classic Sometimes Always. Similarly, Los Feliz sounds like one of the less memorable tracks off Stoned and Dethroned, i.e. a bit like Primal Scream’s slow guitar ballads. The strangest track here is the William Reid sung Simian Split, with its silly opening line about how “I shot Kurt Cobain, I put the shot right through his brain”, though outside of the lyrics the rest of the song is a pretty decent dark-edged rocker.
There’s probably a bit too much of it at fourteen tracks but most of them will appeal to fans of the band, without blowing anyone away. So not a disaster, or a triumph for that matter but something in between, a more difficult beast to categories than a straightforward flop/success return. Certainly as ‘bands that sound like the Jesus and Mary Chain’ go this is as good as any of them.
2. War on Peace
3. All Things Pass
4. Always Sad
5. Song for a Secret
6. The Two of Us
7. Los Feliz
8. Mood Rider
9. Presidici (Et Chapaquiditch)
10. Get On Home
11. Facing Up To The Facts
12. Simian Split
13. Black and Blues
14. Can’t Stop The Rock