Jesus and Mary Chain's Psychocandy - punk album for the '80s

Band was promoted as the new Sex Pistols but wilder and louder. However, anyone looking for punk's social statements was to be disappointed

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 07 March, 2015, 8:30pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 07 March, 2015, 8:30pm

The Jesus and Mary Chain
Blanco y Negro


Ever quirky, The Jesus and Mary Chain celebrated the 30th anniversary of their 1985 debut album, Psychocandy, with a tour last year. That tour has since stretched to this year with dates in North America.

The album comes from a time when Britain was divided by a just-ended miners' strike, race riots and mass unemployment. The mere mention of then prime minister Margaret Thatcher's name guaranteed a laugh for any left-wing comedian. Cheesy synth-pop wasn't cutting it for a young, thinking and angry audience.

Meanwhile, the police and Kelvin Mackenzie's Sun newspaper were looking for new scapegoats for society's ills.

Glaswegian entrepreneur Alan McGee stepped forward with his new discovery from East Kilbride and their debut album: promoting The Jesus and Mary Chain as the new Sex Pistols but wilder and louder, McGee hit on a highly successful strategy.

Giving his new signing the notoriety of the Pistols, especially the mayhem often associated with their gigs, led to vilification in the press and local councils shutting down much of the Mary Chain's first tour. It was great free publicity, but over the years it became clear that the band's edginess came from the fact that founding brothers William and Jim Reid simply didn't get on.

Those looking for the kind of social statements found in punk are destined for disappointment. The lyrical atmosphere of the album is moody and adolescent rather than angry and fighting, and sometimes even verges on the wilfully obscure.

In a Hole, for example, comes across as a teenage poem about alienation and contains the lines, "How can something crawl within/ My rubber holy baked bean tin".

And what to make of the words to Inside Me? "I take my time away/And I see something/ And that's my story".

The lyrics are definitely more about creating an atmosphere than making a statement.

The Jesus and Mary Chain preferred comparisons to the Velvet Underground, and that touch is obvious in songs that are clearly about a love of drugs rather than love songs. Extra track Some Candy Talking can only be an ode to heroin, and Just Like Honey has its share of druggie ambiguity.

Musically, the Velvet's touch is clearly discernible in the insistent, pounding Maureen "Moe" Tucker-style drumming, and the John Cale school of buzzy guitars and great bursts of feedback, like the one that opens In a Hole or closes Some Candy Talking.

Musical trainspotters might also point to the influence of the Ramones and the Shangri-Las, not just in the obvious way that the 43-minute album contains 15 songs and a tune such as Taste of Cindy ends just as it gets going.

But this recording did better than weld together the influences. This may be music that is strongly of its time, but it's still a great listen.