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THE JESUS AND MARY CHAIN: RETURN TO YESTERDAY – AND MORE PSYCHOCANDY

     

DETROIT, MI – The famous Scottish rock legend – The Jesus and Mary Chain – came back out of hiding to perform, “Psychocandy” in Detroit.  It was the return of the famous brothers – Jim Reid and William creating all of the melancholy fuzz, motorcycle grind and deep mind bending psychosis that is – psychocandy. The album is significant because it recently turned 30 and the media is being kind and favorable towards it. This is somewhat of a major contrast compared to when it was first released. A lot of rock critics and album PR people wrote it off as garbage and noise. I mean, the write ups were terrible and fans of alternative went for the more coherent stuff of the day like New Order, The Replacements and Midnight Oil. The J & M Chain never got much radio love and were swept under the rug.

MTV was a little nicer to the thunder duo. The late night rock show, “IRS’s The Cutting Edge” did a feature on them in one episode in the late 80’s, ( I want to say 1988). The show’s host, Peter Zaremba from the Fleshtones, said favorable things about them. The segment showed him watching them on a bunch of TV’s that were washed up on the beach. It was at night and the TV’s gave off an eerie glow. Now this is just from what I remember and keep in mind that it has been a long time. Zaremba made note of how the Jesus and Mary Chain was getting inspiration from early rock and roll and then turning that into a new kind of sound. Something old – something new – something inspired…… the tone of the segment was more upbeat than the stuff I was reading about in the music magazines. Now it’s 30 years on and the official word is that these guys are Alternative Rock Gods in the music press. That’s fine, I am not here to pick a fight with anyone but I remember the slow climb up.

Then there is that little scrap with Echo and the Bunnymen. Ian McCulloch claimed that the J & M Chain were trying to steal their sound so they wrote a musical response in the form of, “Over Your Shoulder” to upstage them and show them how to do –“the sound” correctly. While this musical spat was short lived other bands found them very uplifting and inspiring like The Pixies. Black Francis covered the Jesus and Mary Chain and the song, “Head On” took on a new life of its own. The band later resurfaced in 2007 at some music festivals but continued to remain somewhat invisible in radio and especially in the Detroit market.

ST ANDREWS HALL, LIVE SHOW – MAY 3, 2015

There was no opening act and getting into the city proved difficult and odd. For some unexplained reason the Detroit police department was out in full force and had blocked off highway exits and entrances and major intersections. I knew from experience that we don’t have the most attentive police department in the country and our numbers, (despite the glorious hype of local media) are very small. I was able to find an unoccupied street crossing and BREAK ON through and park my car close to the famous Saint Andrews Hall. A lot of people are trying to get out of Detroit and here I am trying to find a way in….. weird I know.

The Jesus and Mary Chain Psychocandy tour sold out. I am not sure when that happened exactly because I got my ticket early. The whole venue was full of alternative music fans. There were Goths, retro rockabilly types and eccentric people everywhere and it was interesting to see that. I wondered just how many fans there were from way back in the day and who just came to the show out of curiosity to see what the big deal was. Many bands have come and gone since the first introduction to the Jesus and Mary Chain and Alternative music has become a steady industry. There was no opening band on this tour so instead of that the J & M Chain just jumped into some old favorites including, “Reverence” and, “Head On”. Behind the band was a big projection screen like the Velvet Underground back in the 60’s. It was filled with filmic imagery and by that I mean melting film footage, blurry images, and a barrage of strobe lights. They had a fair mix of dark colored and flashing bright lights. Jim and William Reid as well as the rest of the band was bathed in eerie shadows  and in explosions of light. The overall effect was atmospheric and yes…. It reminded me very much of Echo and the Bunnymen only with some powerful stage imagery.

There was a deliberate pause before the, “Psychocandy” portion of the show started and Jim addressed the audience but I couldn’t understand his accent. Plus I was near the back and it was difficult to hear what he was saying. People started cheering and screaming as soon as he began talking. The audience was very enthusiastic. I was happy to just be in the room. This was the bands second stop on this long awaited tour and so far it was very exciting.

When the drums started for, “Just Like Honey” I felt like I was part of a religious experience. There was a quiet kind of hush as the band started. This was the MEAT. The first thing I noticed was that Jim Reid sounded just like he always did. His voice hadn’t changed or lost anything and it was like we were transported back in time. All you can do in a situation like that is just take it all in. We were in a state of awe and there was an incredible sense of beauty in the lights and chaos by the time, “The Living End” came up. I cannot say for certain that there was any kind of thrash dancing going on up near the front but I suspect there was. These guys were really shaking things up. The energy was contagious. The band members were reduced to silhouettes on stage and shrouded in mystery. The important thing was that the beat kept driving and the songs were delivered note per note. I wished they were longer because the energy they were creating up there was massive and bright. You just don’t get that kind of experience from a lot of bands today.

If I could compare these guys to anyone I would have to give that nod to, “The Velvet Underground”. There are moments on songs like, “Far Gone and Out” that I can hear deliberate signatures of VU throughout the entire song. They are delivered in a loving way of course but they are there and then the song nose dives right back into solid J&M. I would even go as far as saying that I hear a bit of That Petrol Emotion in some of their songs. Even though these sounds are apparent the Jesus and Mary Chain are their own creation and the excessive fuzzy tones are remarkable but very much necessary. They were using those echoes to create in depth feelings of searching, yearning and desperation. It is blinding white hot canvas and it penetrates your senses.

I wanted more. But there were no encores once it was over. The band modestly walked off the stage even though the audience from what I could tell was spellbound. I feel that the audience deserved an encore and maybe two at that. Sloan really over delivered when they rocked Saint Andrews Hall a year ago but that is okay. I have a suspicion that the Jesus and Mary Chain will come back with possibly a new album and another tour at some point. There is enough interest there and a lot of love in the house.

TEDROCK APRIL 2015

 

     
   
   

 

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“A VISUAL ASSAULT: REM Dissected Scene By Scene

The bottom video was shot in 1989 and is the closest thing I could find to what the original show opener was like in 1987. This was a departure for REM as much as it was for the audience. Just when you thought you knew the band they changed on you in a new and exciting way. It would take some time to recognize them once again. In the case of, “Document” the album had to grow on me. I noticed this sort of thing happening with the Smiths too.

There was one sequence in the video, not shown in this edition, when the words – “Want” and “Need” come on screen. The words flipped interchangeably and morphed into a strobe that said, “Need Weed” and I remember the crowd going a bit wild over that. This was Ann Arbor after all. There is some talk about the set list being accurate. I do not believe, “Orange Crush” or “Pop Song 89” was performed in 1987. Those songs were released after REM went to Warner Brothers. “Document” was the last album created under the I.R.S. Records label.

There is another version of, “The One I Love” done on the live tour. Stipe starts out with a slow intro and for a minute I thought the whole song would be done slow. It then kicks into the tempo we all know. The stage was also bathed in an eerie red light. How this song got perceived as a love song I’ll never know. It was about a sick love obsession.

Over the years I hear the young kids go, “Oh who cares about that stuff, REM was long before my time.” Trust me, you wish you were there. This show was nothing but historic.

 
 
 
 
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