Amputation by The Jesus and Mary Chain: Minute-By-Minute
- David Pollock
- 9 December 2016
Scots brothers return with a new slice of psychodelic rock for your listening pleasure
The Jesus and Mary Chain's return to recording wasn't unexpected – they've been touring on and off since reforming for Coachella in 2007 after an eight-year break, and the news of their imminent seventh album was let slip a few weeks ago. Yet to have the announcement of Damage and Joy (the East Kilbride-raised brothers' first record since 1998's Munki) brings with it shivers of excitement. The fiftysomething pair are nearly two decades older than the last time we heard them on record, and the timelessness of their fuzzy, dropout, romantic, halfway-between-the-gutter-and-the-stars indie-rock muse is about to be put to the test.
'We've buried the hatchet to some degree, and thankfully not into each other,' said Jim Reid in a statement. 'Wisdom comes with age. Let's live and let live, and let's take each other's opinions into account.' He was talking about his famously fraught relationship with his brother William, but it sounds like a motto which our times desperately need. Do they need The Jesus and Mary Chain's music too? 'Amputation', the first preview track released, provides some clues.
0:00 – The song opens with a squalling whistle of feedback which rises in tone and sharpness; its dual effect is to let us know we're on familiar territory, because of course, The Jesus and Mary Chain = feedback, and that they aren't messing around with one of those hollowed-out hangover ballads which they're actually very good at. This one, we can tell, will be 'a rocker'.
0:12 – The guitar riff kicks in, its first couple of chords wrong-footing the listener by sounding very much like riff from Deep Purple's 'Smoke On the Water' before they repeat.
0:21 – Here's Jim, his choirboy-gone-to-hell falsetto coalescing into some delicate 'oo-oo's which wouldn't sound out of place on a Beach Boys record. The guitar's still churning away, the drum and bass shivers heavily beneath it (that's the record's producers Youth on the latter, in his first collaboration with J&MC). This is a great intro, all 30-plus seconds of it. It'll sound mighty live.
0:37 – 'Tryin' a' win your interest back, but you ain't havin' none a' that,' drawls Jim, 'kiss today but fuck tomorrow.' Had John Wayne turned up in a New York dive bar in the 1970s, liked what he heard and stuck around to form a band (highly unlikely), he would sing songs like Jim Reid, who marries gunslinging bravado and self-protective detachment to powerful effect. The words of the verse sound like pre-emptive retaliation aimed at any critics the new record might find. 'Planned today but pissed tomorrow / I don't know, I guess that we're all through.' This isn't pension plan rock, but something enduringly immediate and from the heart. Then the song breaks back into instrumental and 'oo-oo's for half a minute, and…
2:00 – 'I'm a rock 'n' roll amputation!' hollers Jim over and over, until the long fade begins at 3:02. There's no way of listening to these words, frankly, without recognising they're going for the proper grand guignol rock 'n' roll mythology jugular. What might sound corny to one set of ears, however, appears free from compromise to another, especially when there's a sickly puzzle involved in figuring out what a 'rock 'n' roll amputation' involves. Alongside him, William freestyles meaty, wailing guitar riffs.
3:24 – Finished, after the last ten seconds of whisper-strength feedback. Forever a band whose power was best experienced in person, and whose unexpected knack for pop precision came through most on the recordings, J&MC perhaps haven't matched their own classics with the lightly-produced 'Amputation'. Yet if this is a taster we're hungry for more, because the key J&MC ingredients are here, from the never-far-from-the-surface pop delicacy of the vocal to the itchily unsettled and ready for action guitars. It suggests this comeback will be worthwhile, and that this song, at least, will come furiously into its own performed live.
Damage and Joy tracklist:
2. War On Peace
3. All Things Pass
4. Always Sad
5. Song For A Secret
6. The Two Of Us
7. Los Feliz (Blues and Greens)
8. Mood Rider
9. Presidici (Et Chapaquiditch)
10. Get On Home
11. Facing Up To The Facts
12. Simian Split
13. Black And Blues
14. Can't Stop The Rock