For more than three decades, The Jesus and Mary Chain have had an incalculable influence on music. From shoegaze to garage-rock to alt-rock, the Reid brothers’ legacy reaches far and wide, and their music continues to be the standard within these genres. But when a band has been adored for so long and created such high expectations, their return comes with great anticipation and trepidation. Can a legendary group recapture the magic of its youth, or will they just be a shadow of what they once were?
With the release of their seventh album and first in 19 years, Damage and Joy, the Scottish legends set out to prove why their music is timeless. But how does this modern LP compare to their 1985 debut, Psychocandy? Or even their last album, 1998’s Munki?
We offer our First Impressions today, with a clear consensus: it’s a solid effort from a group who helped define the indie, alternative-rock genre. With brothers Jim and William Reid still at the core of the lineup, The Jesus and Mary Chain still sound as vital as ever.
The Jesus and Mary Chain are: Jim Reid, William Reid, Scott Von Ryper, Brian Young, and Mark Crozer.
Like so many fans of The Jesus & Mary Chain, a tremendous excitement grew within me when the Scottish legends announced they were releasing a new album. At the same time, a nervousness grew because reuniting bands either were hitting the target (like Slowdive) or missing it all together (see Stone Roses). So where would Damage and Joy fall? Unfortunately, it’s somewhere in between.
The nostalgic person in me celebrates the return of their familiar, reverb-drenched, rock ‘n roll and their stoner anthems. “The Two Of Us,” for instance, is right out of the late ’80s and early ’90s, and it would nicely fit within 1994 Stoned & Dethroned. The shimmering “Presedici (Et Chapaquditch)” is a playful, sun-kissed number that the teenager in me would include in every playlist while the searing guitar solos on “Get On Home” would be on repeat.
Yet the analytical person in me asks, “Where the ingenuity that made me a fan of J&MC in the first place?” While there are really great moments in the album – the serene ballad “Los Felix (Blues And Greens)” is a highlight and “War On Peace” is a terrific psychedelic tune – they are the exceptions than the rule. Instead, the album feels like an extension of their previous work, where the Reid brothers played it safe, such as on “Amputation” and “Black And Blues.” This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as long-time fans will appreciate hearing songs to which they can immediately relate. But in a time when many young, hungry bands are pushing the envelope, Damage and Joy falls a tad short of the standards of 2017.
For me, Damage and Joy is a dual triumph: it marks the return of a beloved band from my youth, and it proves that even the most damaged relationship can be repaired and productive.
If anyone had predicted that March 2017 would include new albums from both The Jesus and Mary Chain and Slowdive, I would have laughed. Jim and William Reed reconciling and recording again seemed as implausible as Pink Floyd reuniting for a world tour. (That flame of hope remains lit, naysayers be damned.) Granted, this album isn’t forging new territory; that’s neither its mission nor its reality. But what Damage and Joy does give is a mood-boosting dose of nostalgic indie rock.
“Always Sad” sums up most fans’ feelings about this group. If you’ve been a casual listener (who vaguely recalls spinning Psychocandy or Darklands when The Chain were still cementing their reputation, or one who just discovered them in 1998 thanks to Munki), then this song won’t mean as much. But for Gen X-ers whose youth was shaped by this band’s discography, “Always Sad” is an acknowledgment of the past. The lyrics (“I think I’m always gonna be sad / ’cause you’re the best I ever had”) remind longtime fans that their youth is now a rearview reflection, a look back at a time when The Chain provided the soundtrack to their lives. This bittersweet pain – and the euphoric rush that comes from the album’s opening power chords on “Amputation” – takes us back.
When we listen to this album, we are reliving the joy of youth while assessing the damage sustained on the road that brought us here. Maybe that’s too philosophical, but when it comes to The Chain, dark chords and dark musings always pair perfectly. So while Damage and Joy may not win over all listeners, it most definitely hits the mark with a certain demographic. If we have to live in a world without musical kings Prince and Bowie, then we can celebrate the return of these crown princes.
For many, The Jesus & Mary Chain stand as one of the best post-rock shoegaze bands of all time, so it’s not surprising that they are finally releasing a new album since reuniting over a decade ago. Many bands these days are embracing the reunion effort as a way to not only bring back old fans who love the days of yesteryear, but also to possibly build on their legacy and increase their fan base.
That being said, Damage and Joy, their first album in 19 years, does something pretty interesting. It builds and grows much like their prominent early recordings in terms of sound, but it rarely adds anything exciting to the legacy of what J&MC are as a band. I feel conflicted on this because while I did enjoy the album in some regards, nothing here seems immediate or life affirming. Maybe I’m being overly critical, or maybe I just never understood the band as well as i thought i did, but it leaves me wanting something that is as different sounding as Psychocandy or 1989’s Automatic.
In the long and short of it though, it’s a good, listenable album that you will likely enjoy if you liked them before, but in terms of branching out and trying to find something new and different to say, they unfortunately fall short.
Many years of my growing youth were spent listening to J&MC. The nostalgia is strong, so when I heard a new album was coming, I was excited yet also had a bit of sadness in me. I realize my youth is gone, and I keep wondering as a fan, how can a new album achieve the same warm and fuzzies I received in the ’80s and ’90s? After listening to all 14 tracks, I realize that Damage and Joy attempts to capture a bit of the past yet doesn’t offer much in terms of an evolution for the band. The title is fitting as the damage is done with the family rift and such a long hiatus without new music, even though they have been touring for a while. I should be joyful there is new music to be heard, but yet is it possibly too late for J&MC to still be relevant? I suppose for me I probably “had really high expectations” in terms of the new album.
The album has some stand out tracks like “Get Me Home” and “Always Sad.” The psychedelia on “War and Peace” is impressive, and I guess I was hoping for more tracks like. I have some great memories to go along with Psychocandy and was hoping for a re-invented J&MC to take me into the next decade. Instead, we have similar tracks to my youth with no nostalgia to go with it. I suppose I need to make some teenage-like memories while listening to “Presedici (Et Chapaquditch)” which easily could have been my jam junior-senior year. It is nice to hear J&MC making music again because it’s been SOOOO long, yet I suppose I was hoping for something a bit more evolutionary. Nonetheless it’s still a great album to listen to while remembering the wonderful parts of carefree youth.
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