Why the Jesus and Mary Chain’s Upcoming Tour Doesn’t Matter and Six Current Bands That Are a Better ‘Chain’ Than the JAMC Themselves

For no apparent reason, the Jesus and Mary Chain have announced their first tour dates since their reunion in 2007. Actually, there are a couple of apparent reasons:

1. $$$
2. Recent re-issue of their entire back catalog.

For fans of the JAMC, this comes as news. It’s not exciting news. It’s not bad news. It’s simply news. Seeing as we’re only a couple of years away from the 20th anniversary of their last good album (1994’s Honey’s Dead), it makes one wonder how much longer a band like this, even as influential as they are, can continue to coast down this slope of goodwill before coming to a complete stop. It also makes one wonder whether or not it’s worth throwing down perfectly good cash money to watch two aging gentlemen replay a back catalog that suddenly nose dives at Stoned and Dethroned, never to recover again. No mention yet as to whether this will lead the Reid brothers back into the studio, but given what the last two albums did to their legacy, even diehard fans have to be hoping that it Does Not.

Then there’s the fact that your idols, like 99% of the rest of humanity, are failing to age gracefully. Jim Reid seems to be holding up well:

but William Reid seems to be well on his way toward morphing into Buzz from the Melvins:

[Compare and contrast]

It’s not as if it’s impossible to stay in shape well into (and past) your 40s. Take a look at Iggy Pop:

Sure, he’s got a face only that only a barren adoptive mother could love, but look at the muscle tone! Thirty years after that man’s death, his grave will hold nothing but a skull attached to 40 lbs of beef jerky. And that’s assuming he’ll die. Frankly, he looks like he’d just beat the shit out of the Grim Reaper and go on to compose a concept album about the whole experience, possibly collaborating with Diamanda Galas or Brian Eno or fucking Bright Eyes for that matter. Anything to confound the expectations of his fans.

The Jesus and Mary Chain don’t need to do this, fiscal reasons aside. There’s nothing to be gained artistically, and if they’re looking for a cost effective solution, they could just use animatronic dummies and Hope Sandoval, thus saving themselves the trouble of letting out William’s leather pants and venturing out into the unfriendly daylight of music festivals. A few headliner spots will pay the bills, but the legacy is long gone and compulsive touring isn’t going to change that.

Then there’s the redundancy problem. There are several bands out there right now doing a better Jesus and Mary Chain than the Chain themselves have done in close to twenty years. Why go head-to-head with your unruly offspring who are doing your legacy proud while simultaneously steamrolling your last two decade’s worth of “contributions” to the pantheon of recorded, feedback-heavy music? There’s nothing to gain here but the chance to see what the oft-used but rarely experienced term “chagrined” means.

Before we take a look/listen to the sonic forces of destruction that have taken the Chain’s game to the next level, here’s a couple of tracks to remind everyone of just how devastatingly good they were. Here’s one taken from their debut, 1985’s Psychocandy:

The Jesus & Mary Chain – Never Understand.mp3

Here’s a b-side in which they turn a George Thorogood track into something somehow slightly more menacing and infinitely more listenable:

The Jesus & Mary Chain – Who Do You Love.mp3

And here’s the last good track they cranked out, from 1998’s otherwise skippable Munki:

The Jesus & Mary Chain – Crackin’ Up.mp3

AND NOW, SIX BANDS THAT MAKE THE JAMC’S CURRENT ZOMBIFIED EXISTENCE REDUNDANT

We’ll start off with the most obvious heirs to the Chain’s distorted, leather-clad throne:

A Place to Bury Strangers

Known as the “loudest band in New York City,” (which doubtless makes them The Loudest Band in the World Not Named the Boredoms) A Place to Bury Strangers have grabbed ahold of JAMC’s legacy with both hands, crafting a Wall of Sound worth of Spector himself, if Spector had been into skull-splitting waves of feedback and basslines so distorted they threaten to weaken any lode-bearing structures within the entire metropolitan area (particularly threatening to New Jersey, as most structures have been crafted out of substandard material, thanks to the tireless efforts of skimming mob underbosses and a generally uninvolved crew of union construction workers).

Built on the back of lead Stranger Oliver Ackermann’s Death by Audio effects pedals, A Place to Bury Stranger’s music doesn’t simply beg to played loud: it downright demands it in a calm but serious tone that lets you know immediately it is Not to Be Fucked With. With a few albums and EPs under their belt, APTBS show no sign of slowing down, dialing back the volume or offering to pay for structural damage/ruptured eardrums.

A Place to Bury Strangers – Runaround.mp3

Crocodiles

San Diego’s Crocodiles may not be as sonically aggressive as A Place to Bury Strangers but they have JAMC’s blend of Velvet Underground-noise-meets-hummable-hooks song structure down cold. Not only that, but they’ve got twice the sexual/animal magnetism live (possibly more than that, given the declining ROI of the JAMC experience). While the Chain were content to stare at their shoes or the drummer or the amps, the Crocodiles give the audience something to look at as well as listen to, with charismatic frontman Brandon Welchez strutting, swaggering and sweating all over the stage. Observe them live below:

Crocodiles – Stoned to Death.mp3

With the obvious suspects dealt with, let’s take a look at some of the undercard contenders:

Stellarium

Possibly the only band on this list to challenge A Place to Bury Strangers in terms of sheer sonic destruction, Stellarium hail from the unlikeliest locale ever listed as “Country of Origin” on a shoegaze CD: Singapore. While the JAMC is an obvious influence, their sonic attack also encompasses the expansive aural fuckery of My Bloody Valentine and the overall “hugeness” of seemingly unrelated bands like King Crimson (at their loudest) and Chrome (at their heaviest).

Stellarium – Vertigo.mp3

While Vertigo provides concise proof of their membership in the Chain gang, their true power is fully unleashed in longer tracks like the 13-minute Dead Nebula, which sounds like it would take years off your life experienced live.

It starts out as a reverb-laden altrocker before suddenly discovering the gas pedal around the 2:50 mark, steadily accelerating before crashing headlong into 50-car pileup made of white noise, somehow emerging on the other side, still cruising at a breakneck speed, covered in flames. There’s a moment of silence starting at the 8-minute mark (that lasts 90 seconds), at which point the track morphs into an extremely fuzzy breakbeat workout, not entirely unlike the coda to My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless, the somewhat more melodic Soon.

Ceremony

A bit of cheat, this one. Ceremony is composed of members of Skywave, Oliver Ackermann’s (A Place to Bury Strangers) former band. While not quite as ear-destroying as APTBS, Ceremony still whip up a furious amount of noise themselves. Breaking Up is pure Chainery, bleak lyrics paired with a blasts of distortion. There’s some very nice dynamic shifting going on, occasionally peeling back the layers of fuzz to reveal singular piercing tones of high-contrast feedback. Supposedly a followup to 2010’s Ceremony is in the works, but nothing can be confirmed. Hopefully so, as Ceremony have staked a solid claim to the feedback-laden future.

Ceremony – Breaking Up.mp3

Ringo Deathstarr

Speaking of Texas (and we were, eons ago in the introductory paragraphs: i.e., JAMC is touring, starting with SXSW), Austin’s Ringo Deathstarr have been franchisees of the Jesus and Mary Chain since 2005, not to mention having nailed down one of the most ridiculously cool band names in existence. As is illustrated by Some Kind of Sad, the Deathstarr know their way around the feedback/fuzz/distortion neighborhood, making stops at all things heartbroken or bleakly nihilistic. Also, like their influences, they’ve got a way with buried hooks, the kind that stay in your ear long after the ringing has died out.

Ringo Deathstarr – Some Kind of Sad.mp3

Young Boys

Last, but most certainly not least, it’s the Young Boys, the (yes) youngest member of the nu-Chain. Coming from out of nowhere (thanks to the un-Googleability of their name) with Bring ‘Em Down, perhaps the finest impersonation of the Jesus and Mary Chain yet. While some critics might find this sort of appropriation/derivation to be an affront to the betterment of rock and roll or whatever, the fact is that no one else out there sounded this much like the original, leather-clad, un-tanned, crowd-baiting, bleakly beautiful but catastrophically noisy Jesus and Mary Chain of yore for nearly 20 years, least of all the JAMC themselves. For a fan like me, this was a blast of refreshing past, delivered by the future of the genre.

Several months later and the Young Boys have struck again, offering yet another set of brilliant pop tunes carefully hidden under filthy fuzz and cavernous reverb.

Young Boys – Fell From Grace.mp3

So, the question for the Chain faithful is: do you gravitate towards the new bands giving you what you want but can’t get from the source anymore, or do you fall for the Sunk Cost Fallacy and support the latest tour, entertaining the 1% of your mind that still believes that the JAMC will return to glory once again? My money’s on the new guys. But that’s because my heart belongs to the old guys. If I can’t have them the way I want them, then I’m getting my fix elsewhere. This new wave of bands may owe a ton to the Reid brothers, but as a fan who’s purchased (and re-purchased, thank you very much format shifting!) all the albums and several compilations and singles, I don’t think we owe the Reid brothers anything.

[Oh, lord. PIL is cranking out a new album after a 20-year layoff… ]

/s/CLT

Advertisements

4 Comments

Filed under Commentary, Rock

4 responses to “Why the Jesus and Mary Chain’s Upcoming Tour Doesn’t Matter and Six Current Bands That Are a Better ‘Chain’ Than the JAMC Themselves

  1. Kelldicott

    “Stoned And Dethroned” is a nosedive? Are you sure we’re talking about the same album? And, despite a few songs that are total clunkers and should’ve been cut from the tracklisting, “Munki” was completely fantastic and deserved a far better fate than it received. You didn’t like “I Hate Rock And Roll”? That’s JAMC distilled. You could add water and expand that single song into the equivalent worth of another group’s entire career.
    I’m sorry, that’s dreck you’re peddlin’ up there. And yeah, William’s obviously lost his hearing and he’s not svelte like all the youngsters you droolingly mention at the end of your post. I guess I prefer my music for its musical qualities, not how it looks or what age it is. Sure, the JAMC now isn’t what it was. But your cynicism degrades it, and you do music itself a disservice by encouraging others to share in that attitude.

    • Kelldicott:

      Yes, we’re talking about the same album. Welcome to subjectivity. Not that I didn’t try to give “Stoned and Dethroned” a chance. My first thought is that this was “Darklands” all over again. Where’s the noise? After “Psychocandy,” the low key acoustics of “Darklands” threw me. But it grew on me.

      No such luck with “Stoned and Dethroned.” As for “Munki?” Beyond a few solid tracks, I found it to be a weak album, paling in comparison with their previous output.

      I guess I prefer my music for its musical qualities, not how it looks or what age it is.

      Yeah, you’ve got me there. Scroll through the blog and you’ll see that I do nothing but shovel praise in the general direction of nubile pop stars.

      Here’s the deal: I’m a JAMC fan from square one. The holy trinity of Bands I Love breaks down as follows: the Pixies, JAMC, Love and Rockets. (Jostling for runner-up are the Cure and Skinny Puppy.) But this lack of output from the Reid brothers, combined with occasional touring, feels like a lot of talent is going to waste.

      Obviously my expectations are lowered for any further output from them, due to my reactions to their last two albums. BUT. This doesn’t mean I wouldn’t be interested in hearing something new.

      Even ossified remains like the Rolling Stones still kick out an album every few years to go with the touring. Granted, I couldn’t name anything they’ve released over the last 15 years without consulting the Wiktionary, but at least they’re still recording.

      You may think my “cynicism degrades” the JAMC and that I’m doing music a disservice by encouraging others to listen to newer artists, but the fact remains that if the JAMC are going to do nothing more for the rest of their existence but periodically tour without hitting the studio, then they’re pretty much no different than some legacy act whose nailed down a resident gig at some Vegas casino. Hit the stage. Play some hits. Collect some money. Repeat.

      Nothing I could say could ever take away from their legacy. They are one of the most influential bands of the last 30 years. But I’m not fond of bands riding their legacy into the sunset. Either call it a day or start cranking out some new stuff.

      My opinion is this: if I’m going to go watch a band on tour, I’d rather shell out cash for someone still pushing forward as a group of artists, rather than one cashing in on what’s left of their reputation and some errant bits of nostalgia.

      I mention PIL offhandedly at the end of the post. 20 years gone, but they’re coming back with an album. I don’t harbor any hopes that the new stuff will make everyone forget their early work, but at least they’re giving their fans a chance to make that call on their own. I’m actually interested in hearing this. Two decades is a LONG hiatus. There’s a million directions this could go and about a million more ways it could go horribly wrong. But at least it’s an artistic venture rather than just dusting off the catalog for another runthrough.

      Oddly enough, I hope the Pixies DON’T get back in the studio. I can’t see lightning striking for a fourth time (after their first three albums) or taking down the tree they were just standing under moments ago (the last two albums). Do I begrudge them their touring? A little. For the reasons listed above. But unlike the JAMC, they didn’t suddenly drop off (SUBJECTIVELY) and spend every half-decade from 1992 on, touring and staying the hell out of the studio.

      Bottom line: these new bands owe a lot to the Jesus and Mary Chain. But they’re still building their own catalogs, careers and (possibly) legacies. JAMC are in stasis. Maybe this tour will snap them out of it. But I doubt it.

      EDIT: Did you take a listen to any of the bands listed or were they written off thanks to my bash-happy intro?

  2. All the bands you listed are simply derivative, nothing more, nothing less. They re-hash the genre and don’t expand upon it in even the most remotest sense. The only exception would be Stellarium being from Singapore. It’s essentially the same thing JAMC and other Creation records bands used to be, but without the edge, venom, urgency, subversion and danger JAMC and the genre used to embody. This attitude of “Well, I can’t have this. So this’ll do.” is what basically created Puddle of Mudd post-Nirvana, Muse post-Radiohead, Rapture post-PiL…the list goes on and on. Basically all I hear is an vaguely ageist argument based in revisionist delusion of what you -think- that entire sub-culture was about. You wanna like these bands? Go for it. I, myself, happen to like some of these bands as well. But to taut them as out doing, out performing or basically replacing a band that is more then 20 years old and were responsible for fucking RIOTS at the ICA shows a HUGE disconnect in your understanding of not only JAMC’s history, but the history of Creation records and shoegaze itself. In short: You need to go do your homework.

    • At 37, I think I’ve left my “ageism” far behind. My main issue is that (in my opinion, obviously — see also:: the angry comment above yours) the JAMC haven’t released anything inspiring in years and hearing that they’re touring on the back of goodwill that should all be pretty much dried up at this point thrills me not at all. It’s one thing if a band dissolves and reforms years down the road to catch a new wave of fans raised on bands inspired by theirs. It’s another if they just kind of sit on the sideline, reappearing periodically to gauge interest.

      I do like these other bands and while the sound is certainly inspired by and could (quite fairly) be labeled “derivative,” I think they offer plenty on their own merits. I don’t tout them as a replacement for the JAMC’s legacy, but rather a replacement for all these years that the JAMC have existed without producing anything inspiring. So, sure, if I can’t have something as exciting and groundbreaking as Honey’s Dead or Psychocandy, I’m more than happy to have APTBS or the Young Boys give me what I’m craving, rather than just wear out the grooves on albums I’ve heard (and enjoyed) hundreds of times. Let’s give these guys a chance, rather than just dismiss them as “derivative” and feed money to a band that is currently going nowhere. If you want to shell out cash to pay your respects live, that’s a perfectly valid reason, but I’m not going to pretend I feel like I’m excited about the JAMC’s present, much less its recent past.

      By the way, I’ve been enjoying your music over at Bandcamp. Thanks for providing a URL along with the criticism.

      http://thevivids.bandcamp.com/

      Followers of this blog will recognize parts of this video: