Reunions have become as common in the music industry as reboots in Hollywood. I’m more often shocked when a band breaks up than I am when one gets back together. Whether or not it’s justifiable to call it fad depends on how good the post-reunion music is. The Jesus and Mary Chain called it quits in 1999 and officially reformed in 2007 to play Coachella. Since then, many wondered if that was it. Nearly a decade after that reunion, they’ve given us their official ‘comeback’ album Damage and Joy.
A reunion can ruin a good thing if no one asks for it.
While The Jesus and Mary Chain didn’t exactly leave on a satisfying note, 1998’s Munki was a fitting cap to their 1990s output. It may have been a misguided album but it just felt like a suitable ending to what they became. When people look back at The Jesus and Mary Chain, most are thinking of their 1985 debut Psychocandy. With its minimal production values, otherworldly feedback and Phil Specter-esque melodies, Psychocandy‘s influence is still felt today. With the Reid brothers pushing 60 and the shoegaze revival losing steam, where do The Jesus and Mary Chain go from here?
Instead of reinventing the wheel, The Jesus and Mary Chain pick up where they left off.
From the first 20 seconds of “Amputation” with feedback and tambourine beat, you know you’re listening to The Jesus and Mary Chain. Stick around for another 20 seconds and you’ll also realize nearly 2 decades off means little in the way of songwriting progression. Every song follows the same formula. It’s either a snappy alt-pop jam like “Always Sad” or moody sulking like “War On Peace”. This isn’t a bad thing by any means. When The Jesus and Mary Chain originally disbanded, they had all but perfected their core sound. In fact, this consistency acts as sort of a double-edged sword.
The Jesus and Mary Chain abandoned the noise found in their earlier works, focusing more on the ‘pop’ aspect of the ‘noise-pop’ genre. In some ways, I applaud the idea of sticking to what works. There’s nothing worse than hearing old, crusty dudes trying to appeal to the new generation. They’re better than flashy gimmicks and empty promises. On the other hand, Damage and Joy lacks the danger and mystique that makes The Jesus and Mary Chain.
Damage and Joy doesn’t stray too far from the mythos created later in their career.
It begs the question; Where do The Jesus and Mary Chain fit in 2017? As one of the most important artists of the shoegaze movement, they never really found the critical acclaim like other bands in their territory. If you ask 10 people to name an album from The Jesus and Mary Chain, 9 answers would be Psychocandy. (the other guy will probably mean to say Psychocandy, but will mislabel it Candy or something). So much emphasis on that particular album, the 2017 incarnation of The Jesus and Mary Chain are doomed from the get-go.
Damage and Joy is a fun album and worthy installment in The Jesus and Mary Chain catalog. The attitude, vitriolic wit and salty/sweet hooks are all in top form. There’s not a bad track to be had in the lengthy setlist. Yet there’s nothing that sets it apart from the last few albums to make this proverbial comeback seem special. If you’re expecting Psychocandy II, you’ll be greatly disappointed. However, if you’re a fan of Automatic and Stoned & Dethroned, Damage and Joy will hit the spot in the only way The Jesus and Mary Chain can.
4 out of 5
For tour info and to purchase Damage and Joy on vinyl, cassette, and CD, visit thejesusandmarychain.uk.com
Aaron (or Coop) is a freelance writer, multi-instrumentalist and overall lover of all things music. As an advocate for indie record labels and artists, he is passionate about local scenes and do-it-yourself artistry. If it’s good, it’s good. If it’s bad, he’s not afraid to explain why.