Jesus and Mary Chain resurrected

One of the most volatile and aggressive alternative rock bands of the 1980s and ’90s perform in TA this week.

The Jesus and Mary Chain 390 (photo credit: Courtesy)
The Jesus and Mary Chain 390
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Sibling partnerships in the rock & roll world have produced some enduring music, but have also been punctuated with acrimonious volatility. For every loving Karen and Richard Carpenter team, there’s been explosive yin yang relationships that have resulted in fisticuffs to go along with the gold records. From The Everly Brothers and The Beach Boys (alright, it was mostly cousin Mike Love who strained familial ties) to The Kinks (Ray and Dave Davies) and Oasis (Noel and Liam Gallagher), brothers in music are no different than brothers in life – they tend to fight.
And Jim and William Reid, the sibling creators of 1980s-90s psychedelic punk poppers The Jesus and Mary Chain are no exception. By the time the Scottish rockers called it quits in 1999 after six albums and worldwide acclaim, there was little brotherly love between vocalist Jim and guitarist William.
“After each tour we wanted to kill each other, and during the final tour we tried,” Jim Reid said in a 2006 interview.
But a few years of decompression away from the pressures of touring and recording apparently set their relationship back on an even keel, and in 2007, the Reids announced the reformation of the band.
It helped that there was a resurgence of interest in the band’s music – including the song “Just Like Honey” from their classic 1985 debut album Psychocandy being prominently featured in the 2003 Sofia Coppola film Lost in Translation, and the 2006 remastering and repackaging of all their albums. The coming out took place at the Coachello Festival in 2007, and featured Lost in Translation star Scarlett Johansson singing with them on “Just Like Honey.”
The band that helped return guitar rock to popularity amid the synth-pop explosion of the mid-1980s – paving the way for Oasis, Blur and Suede to take over the airwaves in the subsequent decade – was back. The funny haircuts and sullen attitude were trimmed down for 21st-century optimization, but the music was as hard hitting as ever, capturing the essence of The Jesus and Mary Chain’s sound.
Saying they were inspired by The Sex Pistols and the punk movement of the 1970s, the Reids spent five years living hand to mouth while they perfected their craft outside Glasgow before debuting the band in 1984. What set them apart was combining the three-chord sounds of favorites like The Ramones and the Velvet Underground with pure pop music based on the early 1960s hits of Phil Spector and The Beach Boys.
According to the All Music guide, those disparate aesthetics converged: “equal parts bubblegum and formless guitar distortion, their sound both celebrated pop conventions and thoroughly subverted them.”
Since reforming, the Reids have stuck to occasional touring, with new music being hinted at but so far not realized.
“We have a bunch of new stuff. There’s been this album that everyone has talked about. We want to do it but I guess everyone knows what it’s like between my brother and myself. We disagree about where and how to record the album and what songs should be on the album. Now, we seem to be on the same wavelength to some degree. It’s looking more likely now that there will be an album,” Jim Reid told an interviewer earlier this year.
Album or not, it’s the band’s timeless greatest hits (in an alternative world sense – they never really experienced major chart success) that has most fans jazzed at the return of the Jesus and Mary Chain. When the band continues their comeback with two shows in Tel Aviv this week – October 18 and 19 at the Barby Club – will the Reids be more like brothers in arms or brothers bearing arms? That uncertainty will only add to the excitement of seeing one of the best sibling partnerships back in business.