Published on March 22nd, 2017 | by Dave Scaddan0
The Jesus and Mary Chain – Damage and Joy
Jesus and Mary Chain are back with a new record, Damage and Joy, their first album in 19 years, a welcome addition to their catalogue.
Before I even try to tell you about the new set of Jesus and Mary Chain songs, I should level with you about where I stand with these guys. Back in high school in nineteen-ahem, it didn’t get much cooler. Psycho Candy lit a fire under rock and pop that was like my generation’s Never mind the Bollocks, putting musical acumen in the backseat behind style, attitude, and songwriting. They were one of those bands that made us feel like picking up instruments, plugging them into a shitty amp and hammering on them with two loud chords that might sound cool if we paced them just right.
And this is the Psycho Candy JaMC that many of the devoted still love. Many others lean more towards the Reid brothers style showcased years later on Automatic – the peaked-out, speed-driven rock that blazed over simple drum machines and cranked the band’s attitude up to eleven.
Both of these styles are still remembered fondly, but for me, it’s the more laid-back, drawling Jesus and Mary Chain of Stoned and Dethroned that has steadily maintained appeal. For me, this was the record that stripped away the furze and noise that the band was known for, revealing the sweetly simplistic songwriting that was always there from the beginning. You have to admit, whether you’re more of a Just Like Honey person or more of a Head On person, the songwriting doesn’t shift much between these two leagues – the evolution of The Jesus and Mary Chain was due to shifts in presentation, while the craftsmanship remained mostly the same.
Damage and Joy is satisfying to me as a JaMC comeback because it sounds more like Stoned and Dethroned than anything else they’ve ever done, and that’s why you maybe shouldn’t trust my raving about it.
Most people don’t look to The Jesus and Mary Chain for soothing balladry, and I get that. I just happen to think that it’s one of a few things they do extremely well. There’s something comforting about a cool-as-hell slacker love song (like Dethroned’s Come On) that uses mostly one- and two-syllable words. Damage and Joy comes off pretty smooth, doesn’t rock all that hard, is easy to sing along to, and sounds distinctly like JaMC without much static or feedback.
When a song’s rhymes are so predictable that you can sing along to it the second time you hear it, one of two things can happen. First (and most often) the words are dismissed as childish, elementary, cliched, not well-written. Second, the predictability can be comforting, avoiding cliche, seeming somehow “just right”. This second effect is what I mostly get from the fourteen tracks on Damage and Joy. Hearing a line like, “I hate my lover and she hates me / I don’t know what I’m supposed to be,” I can’t mistake it for great writing, but I also can’t mistake it for anything but quintessential JaMC.
So since you’re probably not interested in this record unless you already know the band well, the best I can do is be honest about my own Chain leanings and write about it praisingly with my own Dethroned caveat. Damage and Joy will present you with more acoustic guitars than squealing amps, more crooning than hollering, and way more duos with various female vocalists than ever before. The sneering, bluesy edge is still there, the catchy hooks persist (mostly because they’re the same ones we’ve heard before) and the Reids are still the Reids. At this point, the brothers (for me) don’t need another I Hate Rock and Roll or another Reverence to get me off. I’m good with just hearing a little of what they sounded like when they covered Leonard Cohen’s Tower of Song, and that’s what Damage and Joy provides.