jesus and mary chain

The Jesus and Mary Chain

July 6, 2019

Mosswood Park (Burger Boogaloo Festival)

Live Music

Like the Velvet Underground, their most obvious influence, the chart success of the Jesus and Mary Chain was virtually nonexistent, but their artistic impact was incalculable; quite simply, the Scottish group made the world safe for white noise, orchestrating a sound dense in squalling feedback that served as an inspiration to everyone from My Bloody Valentine to Dinosaur Jr. Though the supporting players drifted in and out of focus, the heart of the Mary Chain remained vocalists and guitarists William and Jim Reid, Scottish-born brothers heavily influenced not only by underground legends like the Velvets and the Stooges but also by the sonic grandeur and pop savvy of Phil Spector and Brian Wilson. In the Jesus and Mary Chain, which the Reids formed outside of Glasgow in 1984 with bassist Douglas Hart and drummer Murray Dalglish (quickly replaced by Bobby Gillespie), these two polarized aesthetics converged; equal parts bubblegum and formless guitar distortion, their sound both celebrated pop conventions and thoroughly subverted them.

Psychocandy In late 1984, the band issued its seminal debut single, “Upside Down,” a remarkable blast of live-wire feedback anchored by a caveman-like drumbeat; the record made the JMC an overnight sensation in the U.K., as did their nascent live shows, 20-minute sets of confrontational noise (performed with the bandmembers’ backs to the audience) which frequently ended in rioting. The follow-up, “You Trip Me Up,” further perfected the formula, and led to their 1985 debut LP Psychocandy, which gift-wrapped sweet, simple pop songs in ribbons of droning guitar fuzz. After a two-year layoff (during which time Gillespie exited to form Primal Scream and was replaced by John Moore), the Jesus and Mary Chain returned with Darklands, a dramatic shift in approach that stripped away the feedback to expose the skeletal guitar pop at the music’s core.