Thursday, January 29, 2015

Throwback Thursday: The Jesus And Mary Chain - "Psychocandy" (1985)

In the category of Things That Remind Me Just How Old I Am, I was gobsmacked to see notices popping up around the Internets that the Jesus And Mary Chain would be touring this year in celebration of the 30th anniversary of the release of their debut album, Psychocandy.  Good grief, how can that record be 30 years old already?

Had the Internet as we know it today existed when Psychocandy hit the shelves in 1985, the Jesus And Mary Chain would have been the then-current darlings of music bloggers everywhere; as it was, their name and dour, poofy-haired images were splashed all over the cooler zines of the day.  I recall NME, for example, practically gushing for what seemed like months about how fantastic they were. College radio stations talked them up long before the early import singles like "Upside Down" and "You Trip Me Up" found their way across the pond from Scotland.  There was an album coming soon and was gonna be a big deal.

In today's world, Psychocandy might not seem particularly special, but in its time its was groundbreaking.  Literally nothing sounded like it before.  Every song was drenched in feedback.  Certainly, feedback had been used as an integral piece of composition and performance in rock and roll music before, but not like this: on Psychocandy, the feedback shimmered and sang.  It provided the foundation for some tracks and threatened to drown out others.  It hummed along with the melodies and tried to kick your turntable's stylus right off the vinyl.  This was noise, but not just random white noise; it was tamed, at least to the extent it could be, and made to put on a show.  (I vaguely remember reading somewhere at the time that at least one major record label had returned the Jesus And Mary Chain's demo tapes to the band believing the tapes to be defective because of the feedback noise!)

What makes Psychocandy such a good record, though, is that beneath the feedback lay a collection of really good songs.  Take away the gimmick and you still have an album that would score high marks.  Winding and rolling amidst psychedelic garage stomp ("My Little Underground"), sticky bubblegum hooks ("Just Like Honey") and punky attitude and imagery ("Taste Of Cindy"), every cut is solid and memorable.  The centerpiece of the LP is "Never Understand," a crashing, claustrophobic statement of purpose that encapsulates everything wonderful about the full album in a handy three-minute chunk.  Play it loud - turned up to 11, as they say - to fully experience the gut-rumble.

Though they kept at at for several years and managed a handful of likable tunes over the course of several albums, the Jesus And Mary Chain never were truly able to live up to where they set the bar on Psychocandy.  In honor of it's 30th anniversary, I pulled the record out for the first time in a long while the other night, and it sounds every bit as good now as it did then.  If you don't own it, pick it up.  And play it LOUD.

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