Throwback Thursday: Jesus and Mary Chain 'Psychocandy'

This week's Throwback Thursday focuses on one of the most arresting albums of all time - Jesus and Mary Chain's 'Psychocandy'.

Mike Warburton

Date published: 7th Jan 2016

Photo: Jim Reid Credit: Jesus and Mary Chain

As far as debut albums go, few have arrived as loud and fully formed as Jesus and Mary Chain's Psychocandy. Inspiring a legion of bands and artists since, the devastating mesh of 'obnoxious white noise' and dreamy pop motifs have likewise stood the test of time, and 31 years later still sound as exciting as ever.

Lead by brothers William and Jim Reid and joined by bass player Douglas Hart, Jesus and Mary Chain started out in the early eighties, quitting their jobs to focus on their musical endeavours, spending five years on the dole in the process.

Inspired by a wide range of artists like The Velvet Underground & Nico, German industrial icons Einstürzende Neubauten and American pop troupe The Shangri-Las, they set about developing a style of music that eventually found the ears of Primal Scream's Bobby Gillespie (who joined Jesus and Mary Chain as the drummer between 84 and 85), and later Alan McGee of Creation Records. Stream it below.

It doesn't take long for the album to display its magnitude - from the get-go, the sparse, reverbed drums, the frazzled guitars and the subdued vocals of Jim Reid grab you by the balls. 'Just Like Honey' is about as perfect track as you'll ever hear, and a bold opener. 

The stunningly evocative melodies and cool, whole-hearted vocals of track one very quickly give way to more gnarly exploits. 'Taste The Floor' and 'You Trip Me Up' for instance ditch the pleasantries in exchange for aggressive washes of distortion and more straight up alt-rock tropes, placing Beach Boys-esque vocals over the top of swathes of undulating grit - it's that stunning meeting of worlds that repeatedly delivers explosions of genius throughout the album's 39 minute duration.

'The Hardest Walk' for instance shows how masterful the Reid brothers were in delivering towering pop harmonies and addictive hooks, shown again with more low key efforts like the wistful, enchanting 'Cut Dead', and more upfront tracks 'Sowing Seeds' and 'Something's Wrong'.

The contradiction within their sound was mirrored in their live shows. The painfully shy brothers drank heavily and used amphetamines to overcome their nerves, with chaotic results. Gigs lasted as little as 15 mins whilst they stood, backs to the audience in full-on antagonism mode. Audience members erupted in violence and stages were regularly trashed, whilst the band members hid in their dressing rooms.

With one instance reported as 'a riot' by The Sun, the band soon found themselves banned by many councils, whilst their notorious, absurd arrogance in interviews got them more and more noticed as they lived and breathed the aggressive nature of their music. Watch Jim tear into Joy Division, a band he was a fan of, just to get a reaction on Belgian TV. Skip to the 8 minute mark. 

But the drink and drugs took a back seat with the recording of Psychocandy, Jim and William taking six weeks and spending £17,000 to carefully and painstakingly build the album's signature sound, something that earned it NME's album of the year in 1985.

It's not often an album comes along that has been so uncompromisingly realised. The Reids ignored the correct ways to produce music, they didn't even know what they were, they just wanted to sound different, had a vision and stuck resolutely to it, and one of the greatest albums in history was born. Not bad for two lads on the dole from East Kilbride.

Watch Jesus and Mary Chain at Cosmosis Festival. Get your Cosmosis tickets here.

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