Retrofitted (Riot Style) – the Jesus and Mary Chain

Another band, I am eager to see perform this week at Riot Fest are the Glasgow, Scotland, set the Jesus and Mary Chain. My first exposure to the Mary Chain (as the ardent fans call them) came at the near end of their recording career when they collaborated on “Sometimes Always” with the Hope Sandoval of Mazzy Star. The song is a brilliant push and pull between Hope and Jim Reid telling the story of two lovers negotiating and patching up the pieces of a failed relationship. By the time of Stoned and Dethroned, the Jesus and Mary Chain were more “polished” and yet another band making richly layered guitar rock. A decade earlier, however, they unintentionally helped transform British Rock and had a profound influence on countless bands that would later borrow from their retro Mod rock aesthetic.

On Darklands, the Scottish band’s second album, The Mary Chain composed a record that sounded like the 1960s surf rock redux but filtered through the strange doom and gloom orchestration of Goth Rock (see “Darklands”) and with tinges of the extended, noisy jams of late 80s Shoegazer rock (see “Nine Million Rainy Days”). (In other words the 80s version of what Ariel Pink does, yet less surreal.) The record also contains some subtle allusions to American Country (like  Johnny Cash Country) (see “Deep One Perfect Morning”) and similarities to another wildly popular English post-punk outfit of that era, Echo and the Bunnymen (see “April Skies”). Like many bands that created a new sound, the Jesus and Mary Chain are largely a footnote in the history of British/Alternative Rock of the late 80s and 90s (see also Slowdive and My Bloody Valentine). Yet, listening to Darklands, you’ll hear a record that sounds as fresh and perhaps more relevant today than it did then given the popularity of retro 60s mellow mod-rockers (and folkies) like the Raveonettes or She and Him and the pensive, darkly layered songs of the xx.

For a mellow Tuesday reverie visit the Darklands courtesy of the Jesus and Mary Chain.

One more word before I go… You wouldn’t know it from the sound of their music but Jesus and Mary Chain shows were known for being rather raucous events, complete with incidents of the band fighting with the audience. I guess they weren’t the only brothers on the English Isle with aggressive and pugilistic tendencies. I’ll keep myself at a safe distance on Sunday.

Also in contemporary news, speaking of the xx you can stream their new album on NPR here. While you are at it, you might want to take a stroll with David Byrne and St. Vincent or get wacky with Grizzly Bear.

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