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The Jesus And Mary Chain
Upside Down Julian Marszalek , November 18th, 2010 11:39

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As much as it is about timing and fashion, rock’n’roll is built on myths and legends. Who cares that Keith Moon never actually drove a Rolls Royce into a swimming pool on his 21st birthday, that Keith Richards’ blood remained firmly in his body when visiting a clinic in Switzerland to clean up or that the Sex Pistols could actually play? As Maxwell Scott says in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence, “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”

Perhaps so but Upside Down… does a more than an admirable job in smashing up a few important myths surrounding the Jesus and Mary Chain and the much-maligned decade that was the 1980s. Principally among these is the notion touted by a generation born after the aftershock of punk and welcomed into the arms of Britpop that the Stone Roses’ debut album represents the high water mark of that period and some kind of Year Zero.

1985 proved to be a watershed year and as riots erupted up and down the country, the Jesus and Mary Chain’s explosive debut, Psychocandy, inadvertently soundtracked the chaos that was engulfing it. Not that the Mary Chain – or at least manager Alan McGee, so obviously in thrall to Malcolm McLaren – were oblivious to creating a mythology around them. The riot at the band’s infamous North London Polytechnic gig was apparently the sound of pop music being smashed up, and such bullshit culminated in the terrifying Electric Ballroom concert several months later that attracted the unwanted attention of seriously demented football hooligans looking for trouble regardless of the musical agenda.

But the brilliance of Psychocandy – here represented by ‘You Trip Me Up’, ‘Never Understand’ and ‘The Hardest Walk’ amongt others – was in fusing a pop sensibility with the power if the Velvet Underground in full flight and any perceptions of the band’s inability to play were kicked firmly into touch. Sugar flavoured and sweet to the palette, these songs were then dipped in a lysergic coating to create an almost confusing effect that straddled the most polar of pop extremes.

The other myth steamrollered by this generous 44-track compilation is that the Jesus and Mary Chain became a spent force after the release of their debut. Indeed, to examine the evidence to the contrary is to discover a treasure trove of musical delights. As Jim Reid told The Quietus two years ago, the Jesus and Mary Chain were in no mood to repeat themselves: “We’d done Psychocandy and all that anybody wanted us to do was Psychocandy 2 and we reacted against that.” Darklands' ‘April Skies’ and ‘Happy When It Rains’ were bona fide hit singles, while the magisterial ‘Sidewalking’ revealed hip-hop influences (the drum sample came from Roxanne Shante and Stetsasonic were a turntable staple chez the Reids) that proved that there had always been a dance element to their music long before any indie-dance chancer ran with the concept as they chased the bandwagon breathlessly down the street to the nearest rave.

So while 1989’s Automatic album tends to get short thrift its pearls included ‘Blues From A Gun’ and ‘Head On’ – later covered by Pixies – and the Mary Chain’s beatbox experiments – as displayed by ‘Reverence’ and ‘Far Out And Gone’ - saw them convincingly change direction on Honey’s Dead while still firing white-hot blasts of rock’n’roll in the shape of ‘Rollercoaster’. Though Stoned And Dethroned failed to set the world on fire and the under-rated Munki found itself sidelined in favour of another pair of McGee-sanctioned brothers, Upside Down… offers choice morsels in the form of b-sides (‘Happy Place’, ‘Psychocandy’), rarities (’45 RPM’) and new – yes, new – material (see ‘All Things Must Pass’) that does much to belie the Reid brothers’ reputation as a pair of wastrels to lazy to re-string a semi-acoustic guitar.

Splendidly mastered to boost the fuzz that fizzes throughout the Jesus and Mary Chain’s three chord gems, Upside Down… is a great introduction for anyone seeking an alternative to received wisdom erroneously taken as fact, as well as a timely reminder of Reidian greatness for any lapsed apostles.

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Johnny Nothing
Nov 18, 2010 5:47pm

Darklands was a colossal disappointment after Psychocandy (although the singles were pretty good). And they gradually became less special as the world caught up. Isn't most of the good stuff on this new comp already collected on Barbed Wire Kisses?

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John Doran
Nov 18, 2010 7:28pm

In reply to Johnny Nothing:

Nine Million Rainy Days off Darklands is an amazing song. One of their best.

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Nov 18, 2010 8:09pm

I don't really understand the whole "80s music was shit" thing - sure, most of the pop music was, but that's why we cherished the Mary Chain. Got to admit I've not heard anything from the last two albums mentioned, but to say that Barbed Wire Kisses represents an end point doesn't sit well with me Mr Nothing - the JAMC still seem relevant and exciting, especially in the face of such JAMC-lite as BRMC (ooh, acronym overload!)

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Nov 19, 2010 12:06am

In reply to Red_Dog:

I actually enjoyed the original four JMC titles ( and 'Barbed Wire' as well )equally ( well, 'Psycho' more than the others, but you get my meaning ). Yes, they changed a bit, and the drum machines can sound a bit 1989, but the songwriting was still top notch, and the lacing feedback just as bracing.
I recommend the b-sides collection 'Negative Thinking' to any one who hasn't heard it. Lots of terrific stuff that mostly just got left to the margins. I still love this band as much as any of the last thirty years.

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The Flying Horse
Nov 20, 2010 1:14am

" Sidewalking " is a really cool song to listen to first thing in the morning.

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Nov 21, 2010 11:35pm

In reply to The Flying Horse:

Snakedriver? You tube Marychain Jools Holland and laugh at how cool they were.

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Nov 23, 2010 2:46pm

that portastudio version of On The Wall...
why was that so good?

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Nov 24, 2010 3:51pm

I've always thought "Stoned and Dethroned" was an underrated record. I've always loved it; when I was in my twenties, it was the record I always pulled out with dates when it was Saturday night, one in the morning, we were chain-smoking, the only light in the room was candles, and we were both pretty drunk.

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Nov 25, 2010 10:01pm

Darklands is one of the very few albums that I've consistently listened to for 20 plus years ...

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Nov 30, 2010 4:05pm

In reply to scobie:

Stoned and Dethroned is amazing, weird that Jim reckons Honey's Dead was there best. It's the only one i've not rebought (my turntable is bust and it's costing a fortune to fix so i'm buying cds'). Sound quality on most Mary Chain records suck, even the remasters, trying to make a compilation is a nightmare, they sound so weedy next to, well, anything! It's not right.

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Alan hubbard
Dec 2, 2010 12:48pm

The jesus and mary chain lets begin with psychocandy an assault on the senses east kilbride finest noise merchants iconic like jim said every song on that album should of been a single. They were the wake up call of a very mundane pop chart of the early 80s they more or less tore up the rule book. And to anyone dissing darklands or any mary chain album you need a reality check every album they made was genious.

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Dec 2, 2010 8:48pm

In reply to Alan hubbard:

...and the B sides were OK too!

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Alan Hubbard
Dec 8, 2010 9:52am

In reply to Nicky:

Yeah the b sides were more than just ok Nicky they kinda of stood out their covers have been some of the best covers ive heard in a long time dont you think. And i hate when people say that they sound samey i mean does darklands sound like psychocandy does it fuck.

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Dec 8, 2010 7:24pm

In reply to Alan Hubbard:

It was an understatement joke! Probably one word for it in in the dictionary somewhere, i'll find it later. When I was a kid my friend's older (goth) sister gave me a Marychain tape and years later when i got back into them (via my wee sister's Now That's What I Call Music Volume... Fuck Knows, which had Far Gone And Out on it!? Weird in itself to be in amongst all that shit music), i bought every album and Psychocandy and Darklands sounded familiar, but not right, it turned out to be Barbed Wire Kisses. Again though, when is someone going to sort the sound out.

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Alan Hubbard
Dec 13, 2010 10:52am

In reply to Nicky:

I did'nt say anything for you to think it was just an understated joke Nicky and it certainly was'nt a personal attack i find your imput quite valuable.
Were you ever one Nicky a goth that is? Sorry for asking are you male/female.

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Alan Hubbard
Dec 13, 2010 12:55pm

In reply to Nicky:

You have all the mary chain albums Nicky what about ihaterocknroll album its an import from the states little stars is catchy as hell and has a brilliant guitar solo from william.
What other bands do you like?

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