Album Review

First things first: the major news about these Jesus and Mary Chain reissues is that there's finally a version of Psychocandy on CD that does the classic album justice. Until now, Mary Chain fans who wanted to listen to the band's first, greatest album on their CD players had to make do with the Warner Brothers version, justly famed among record collectors as the most egregious compact disc fuckjob in the history of grade-Z frogshit. Here was an album that was supposed to whelm you in deep gulfs of feedback so that you would be simultaneously narcotized by its eddies and terrified of drowning, yet you had to crank your stereo up to max volume just to hear the thing! And even then you would have to tape the speakers to your ears and eat several bags of mushrooms just to begin to remember the horrible power the album had on vinyl or cassette. (Imagine if the only way you could hear a digital version of White Light/White Heat was on RealAudio 1.0 circa 1995 through speakers made out of Schlitz cans, and you'll know what I mean.) But no more! I am listening to the Rhino Psychocandy reissue as I write this with my stereo at one-half its total killing power, and it is reducing my brains to paste! Water, water everywhere, nor any drop to drink!

In retrospect, a large part of the Mary Chain's greatness came from the ease with which the band incorporated every rock pose and style going—punk, goth, industrial, bubblegum, rockabilly, noise—in the space of a single song. As countless pastiche-style records glut our markets and weaken our American dollar, we would do well to reflect on the achievements of the brothers Reid, who, though the compass of their listening was broad, did not feel the need to reference every embarrassing funk trombone bleat and vintage synth tone ever put on record. Nor did they ponder the opposite end of the ideological seesaw and insist that rock music ought to be as simple as addition and as dumb as a sponge. No, the Mary Chain was an unwobbling pivot of good old Confucian horse sense, marrying the Scottish thrift of the Reids' song-form with the fat, incontinent English liberality of groovy rock decadence; the dudes just got up there and rocked like mensches. Take that brilliant 12″ single “Blues From a Gun” (also on Automatic)—the song sounds even better now than it did at the time, and it sounds just as exciting at a dance club as it does on the radio (if the radio ever played it) or on your headphones. Whenever I listen to this song in my car, shouting along with its fake-Dylan lyrics, the blinding guitar solo causes me to floor the accelerator and lurch shrieking from lane to lane, murdering motherfuckers. And that song was written by William Reid, who was totally the lame one!

The Rhino reissues are those DualDisc things, which means that if you flip them over and play them on your DVD player you can hear them in some sort of total sense deprivation mega home theater surround mix. That must be really something, but I don't know because I don't have all that fancy gear. However, as someone who has been looking for a copy of the out-of-print Jesus and Mary Chain VHS for a decade or so, I do appreciate the inclusion of each album's music videos on the DVD side of these discs. The videos do a pretty good job of deepening the atmosphere of squalor and anomie in which the Reids once sported. In the “Her Way of Praying” video, for instance, they could be in any red-light district anywhere in the world at any time, and for all I know they still are.

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