With a band name that threatened the blasphemy laws of the day and a visceral sound that shrouded the innocent beauty of 1960’s girl group pop in a torrent of squalling feedback and reverb, it is perhaps now quite difficult to fully comprehend the staggering impact that The Jesus and Mary Chain had on the musical landscape of the early eighties. The vision that William and his younger brother Jim Reid had nurtured and developed for years in their hometown of East Kilbride was finally crystallised on the band’s debut album Psychocandy.
Tonight the Reids and their three musical cohorts are in Manchester as part of a three city tour to herald next year’s 30th anniversary celebrations of that seminal record’s release. Somewhat bafflingly therefore, William is sporting a T-shirt with the number 1972 emblazoned on the front and in a further departure from logic and convention Jim advises us that The Jesus and Mary Chain are going to start the evening by playing the encores first. They will then, he adds, leave the stage for a few minutes before returning to play Psychocandy in its entirety.
The seven song “encore” draws from The Jesus and Mary Chain’s recording career for the eight year period that stretches between their 1984 debut single ‘Upside Down’ – still an unrelenting, merciless white noise onslaught of the senses – to their fourth album, Honey’s Dead from which ‘Reverence’ is tonight’s unquestionable highlight. After a stuttering ‘April Skies’ and a strangely lifeless ‘Psychocandy’ (which perversely does not appear on the album of the same name), they tear into ‘Reverence’; emerging from the shadows, William’s guitar is suddenly, and brutally on fire and taking the lead from his brother, Jim spits out those inflammatory words – “I wanna die just like Jesus Christ, I wanna die on a bed of spikes” – as if his wish had suddenly come true.
As Jim Reid had indicated earlier the band then temporarily depart the stage as some footage from an old East Kilbride Development Corporation promotional film spools onto a huge backdrop, showing the new dawn of one of Scotland’s then five new towns and reflecting the distance the Reid brothers have travelled all the way from the Murray to Manchester.
Then, as those huge Phil Spector echo-laden drums and that towering skyscraper melody begin to unfurl, you are reminded of just how colossal a song ‘Just Like Honey’ really is. And it is here that The Jesus and Mary Chain begin the journey through the darkness and light of Psychocandy. It is a mesmerising, strange, perplexing trip where both the brittle wonder and hidden beauty of the record’s fourteen songs – performed here in their exact original order – is exposed.
Yet rather than take these fourteen fragments of distorted, revolutionary sound in isolation, hearing them once again through the wider perspective of age and reason you now recognize that Psychocandy is far greater than the sum of its individual parts. Much is made of its tumultuous signature style – the union of the darker pop of The Shangri Las and the more dislocated sonic extremities of The Velvet Underground – but Psychocandy is ultimately a complete work in its very own right; a record both out of, and ahead of its time.
Some more photos from this show can be found here