To look at the kinds of new and exciting music, both locally and nationally, that’s been emerging, one would have taken notice of the resurgence that post-punk of the late 70s and 80s has played. At the center of this has been The Jesus and Mary Chain. Fronted by brothers, Jim and William Reid, they released their first record, Psychocandy in 1985, but the band had been on hiatus since 1998/99, after their record Munki was released. However, The band have recently come back together and released a brand new record, titled, Damage and Joy, on March 24th.
There’s always a certain trepidation when a band gets back together and releases a new album. The questions arise as to why; short on money, can they still play, what drives their creativity? One really interesting aspect of Damage and Joy is how it doesn’t sound dated, or more precisely, the way in which it does sound dated. It’s as if they recorded these songs in sessions after just creating Munki, put those tracks in a vault, and then released them almost 2 decades later. The progression from that record to this one is minimal but noticeable.
Songs like “Black and Blues” and “Song for a Secret” are quite similar to their song, “Sometimes Always” from 1994’s Stoned & Dethroned. The tracks use female vocals that kind of act as a ray of sunshine on a bleak day, or as a light, brisk breeze when first stepping outside. On “Song for a Secret,” the vocals of Isobel Campbell of Belle and Sebastian are soft and angelic, which are contrasted against Jim’s.
Releasing records pretty consistently from ’85-’94, The Jesus and Mary Chain were there throughout a pivotal time for the creation of modern indie rock. Although the group undoubtably has influenced countless of others releasing music today, Damage and Joy, production quality and guest vocalists aside, sounds like a record from the mid 90s. Damage and Joy wasn’t made with the current landscape of music in mind, it doesn’t have any kind of “indie twinge” to it at all (which is fascinating). Granted, a portion of the songs on the album were already recorded or existed in some form or another before 2017, like the album opener, “Amputation”, which is actually a re-recorded version of a 2006 single titled, “Dead End Kids” from lead singer, Jim. Other songs featured on Damage and Joy were previously released as singles on Jim and sister, Linda Reid’s project, Sister Vanilla.
Although, the songs on Damage and Joy are great to listen to, and you can tell these guys never really missed a beat, absent is the kind of attitude and wall of sound from Psychocandy, and at times tracks do seem like they are a little too back to basics. Damage and Joy doesn’t feel like it’s supposed to be some kind of retrospection on everything they’ve done, but a continuation of what they were always doing, but first had to wipe away a few cobwebs.