The Jesus And Mary Chain
From page 66 of Classic Rock Magazine December 2010
Upside Down: The Best Of... Rhino
Career retrospective from Scotland’s finest purveyors of industrial pop.
L ike the Sex Pistols before them and the Manic Street Preachers after them, The Jesus And Mary Chain’s modus operandi at the very beginning was to piss off as many people as possible. The Reid brothers – William and Jim – achieved this objective in lightning time. With a debut single majoring in ear-piercing feedback, live sets that totalled 10 minutes (not including riots) and a sullen demeanour that made Robert Smith look like Norman Wisdom, The Mary Chain were public-enemy number one to some parts of the British media. The fury, wild as it was for a short period, muddied the birth of what, in reality, was a great rock band – as well as the blizzard of distortion on debut single Upside Down , there also lurked a brilliant pop tune. Follow-up Never Understand shared the formula – chainsaw guitars, metronomic drums, horror screaming and a chorus straight out of 60s-girl-group pop. The Mary Chain had nerve and it’s this quality that holds up over this 44-track career retrospective.
Unchronological, Upside Down doesn’t tell the story of The Mary Chain’s transformation from Creation Records agent provocateurs to gothic pop stars to rock’n’roll class act. Instead it darts
between eras and demonstrates the breadth of their career. When you’ve been as misunderstood as long as they have, then maybe it’s not a bad approach. Those early singles loiter strangely towards the end of the first CD, while the entire package also includes B-sides, alternate versions and rarities.
Just Like Honey , April Skies , Happy When It Rains and Some Candy Talking still sound remarkably fresh and vibrant – possibly because they’ve been used as a template for many dark pop bands in recent years, from Garbage to Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – the Reids’ alchemy of brutality and beauty making them among the most timeless of 80s pop hits. Elsewhere there are reminders that they grew up gracefully – Jim Reid’s duet with Hope Sandoval on Sometimes Always successfully casting them as post-punk’s answer to Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra, the wonderful Moe Tucker and I Hate Rock’N’Roll suggesting that Munki , their final album, released in 1998, is worthy of reinvestigation. While All Things Must Pass – recorded in 2008 for the soundtrack of TV show Heroes – suggests a comeback would be more than a nostalgic exercise.
Q&A with Jim Reid
how did your sound come about, that collision between noise and pop?
We were into extremes, we loved things like The Shangri-Las but also The Birthday Party and Einsturzende Neubauten. The only band who had ever brought that pop melody to freakout noise had been The Velvet Underground, and we wondered why nobody was doing it. So we thought we’d do it, we’ll be the pop band that makes more noise than anybody else.
You were treated like scumbags by the tabloids when you started out. why?
Well, a lot of that had to do with the fact that we trod on a lot of toes. We’d never been in a band before, we’d barely been out of East Kilbride before and we just didn’t know what the rules were. I promise you it was unintentional. Me and William were very socially awkward. Suddenly we’re thrown into this pop stardom thing. The way I coped with that was I got very drunk a lot of the time and then you just cause upset without meaning to... We shot ourselves in the foot. Every opportunity we had, we blew. That was our talent, fucking up.
were Creation the only label you could have signed for? We sent demos to everybody and nobody was interested. Alan McGee gave us a gig at his club. We were doing a soundcheck, and me and William just started lunging at each other and chucking guitars. Alan thought we were insane but he started going, ‘This is fucking brilliant, let’s do five albums’.
You and william, was it normal sibling rivalry or musical differences?
At the beginning it was just about the records we were making. I remember for Psychocandy we ended up knocking this big soundproof door off its hinges when one of us threw the other against it. I think we just wanted the band to go in different directions, but the fact is we really didn’t, we wanted the same things but we acted as if we didn’t.
what’s the position now? We sort of get along. There may be at some point another Mary Chain album if we feel that we want to do that. We’ve kind of dipped our toe in the water, recorded a few tracks but nowhere near enough for an album. People keep trying to get us to do a show where we play Psychocandy . We may do that at some time in the future, but there’s no plans just now.