Friday, 5 April, 2024 in Music

Into Live Music Review: The Jesus & Mary Chain

Concert: The Jesus & Mary Chain
Venue: Edinburgh Usher Hall
Date: 27 March 2024
Everyone has a favourite genre but for me, there’s no debate. Forget the pleasantries of pop, disregard the rhythm of the blues and the harmonies of God-honest gospel or indeed the soul of, er, soul. There are tons of sonic species that may hold one’s attention from time to time but let’s not mess about, rock and roll, dear reader, is where it is at. 
The finest purveyors of that goddamned R’n’R (and we aren’t talking rest and recreation here folks) surely include tonight’s headliners, The Jesus & Mary Chain. With a new album in tow, Glasgow Eyes, the band completed a two hour set with the minimal of fuss but with enough fuck you anti-bonhomie to remind us all that they were once seen as the band most likely to bring the music industry to its knees. Can you imagine that happening now? No, me neither. 

Yes, back in 1984/85 amid chaotic shows such as the legendary North London Polytechnic gig, J&MC were seen as the “new” Sex Pistols. Twenty minute shows laced with drink, drugs, feedback, violence and carnage. That good old rock and roll. If you were there, you know. 

Of course, there’s a certain revisionism when one applies that thinking as not everyone bought into the view that J&MC were indeed the saviours of R’n’R. Some believed that there was more to be gained listening to limp-wristed American soft/hard rock acts like Van Halen or orgasming over the pitiful, cartoonesque Sigue Sigue Sputnik. The big three inkies of the mid 1980s (NME/Sounds/Melody Maker) were particularly culpable. Claire Morgan Jones writing for the NME about a Sheffield University show commented that “a pile of breeze blocks have more stage presence” and  that “the noise they make is vacuous, vapid, null and void“. Now, there may actually be some truth in that, but Jones misses the point, Never Understand, absolutely! 

Four decades on and those breeze blocks still barely move, with the occasional exception of singer Jim Reid. The crowd, like the band, are more grizzled, more cynical, more demanding but we all know where it is at and that place is right here, right now. The sound could be construed as vacuous, vapid and so on but my experience is that of a visceral polaroid that flickers and changes gradually in front of my eyes, all the while a sonic assault is pounding my ears, an ultra vivid scene playing out like a psycho-melodrama. 

What did they play? Does it matter? What matters is that they did play, and did so with anger, attitude, angst and atonal expressionism. The influences are of course in there, from the Velvets to the Pistols, Beach Boys to Spector. The new songs rock as much as favourites from Upside Down and all that they’ve done since. 

The point is that the best rock and roll bands don’t pander to anyone. They didn’t just follow their own path, they built it too. If you like it, that’s cool. If you don’t, go listen to Van Halen, square. 

For more on The Jesus & Mary Chain, head to their website here

John Welsh


J&MC Photos: Trevor Pake




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