Atoned and Re-throned
Scoff if you will at the greedy root causes for the reunion fever of the past few years, but it's hard to stay cynical when artists the caliber of the Pixies, the Slits, Mission of Burma, Camper Van Beethoven, Slint and Gang of Four are rolling through town. Legacies are no longer set in stone—not when dead bands can re-form, tour and even emerge with strong new material.
Which brings us to the Jesus and Mary Chain, the Scottish shoegazer-rock legends who went out with a whimper during the tour behind 1998's lackluster Munki. Tempers among group members flared, and the shows suffered, with the final set falling apart so awfully that everyone in attendance was refunded their money. Then poof! No more JAMC.
That's all she wrote, right? C'mon. This is the age of MySpace, Pitchfork and other catalysts that can turn an influential cult band into a blockbuster on the reunion circuit. All it took was the better part of a decade—and maybe the glowing praise for the band's recently reissued back catalog—for founding brothers James and William Reid to rekindle the flame. It helped that they were already working together with their sister Linda in Sister Vanilla, whose very JAMC-sounding debut, Little Pop Rock, came out domestically this month. Plus, there was that legacy to consider. Could the Reids really live with the embarrassment of that last JAMC show?
"It was such a bloody awful mess," said front man James Reid in a recent press release. (The band's not doing any interviews for the moment.) "That was no way for the Mary Chain to end."
Lucky for us—or rather, for the crowds at Coachella, where the 21st-century version of JAMC featuring former members of Lush and Ride will debut between the Arctic Monkeys and Interpol. Transcendent as that performance is sure to be, the spin-off Glass House gig will be more intimate. Just imagine the band's trademark blend of distortion-soaked, post-Velvet Underground jangle and exploded Phil Spector-isms careening around the room with nowhere to go but your ears.
It's also a rare indoors show in a reunion tour built around giant festivals: Super Bock Super Rock in Portugal, Summercase in Spain, M'era Luna in Germany, and Connect in the band's homeland. (Don't forget, JAMC played Lollapalooza back in the day.)
All fanboy giddiness aside, the time is simply right for a Jesus and Mary Chain reunion. Enough bands have kept the JAMC sound warm for them, for better (the Raveonettes) or worse (Black Rebel Motorcycle Club), and the emergence of so-called nu-gaze has illustrated how many ways that sound can be commandeered.
Even a cursory trip through JAMC's 1985 debut LP, Psychocandy, underscores how groundbreaking these Scots were. Equal parts gritty garage and dreamy pop, the landmark album buries its sweet melodies in waterfalls of fuzz; you can almost zone out and not even notice Jim Reid's coolly detached singing or Bobby Gillespie's easy drum beats. The opening "Just Like Honey," used to devastating effect in Lost in Translation, remains so prototypical it feels plucked from the dawn of time.
But there's more to the Jesus and Mary Chain than Psychocandy. Apart from two solid odds-and-sods collections, 1988's Barbed Wire Kisses and 1995's Hate Rock 'n' Roll, the band went in new directions with every album, from the spartan Darklandsand more electronic Automatic to the bitter Honey's Dead and the sleepy Stoned & Dethroned. Even Munki, while disappointing for a JAMC album, was better than most of the bands that have copped the JAMC sound and haircuts since.
With a reunited Jesus and Mary Chain now a happy reality, it's time to pray for more shows, new material (each Reid brother has a solo album on the way) and a renewed spirit that makes up for the band's unceremonious sputtering out in their last life. While you wait, dust off those albums—not just Psychocandy—and fall in love all over again.
THE JESUS AND MARY CHAIN AND THE ICARUS LINE PERFORM AT THE GLASS HOUSE, 200 W. SECOND ST., POMONA, (909) 865-3802; WWW.THEGLASSHOUSE.US. THURS., APRIL 26, 7 P.M. $30.
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