The Jesus And Mary Chain are back — and this time they’re not alone. Paul W. Hullah attempts to jerk WILLIAM REID out of his afternoon nap for the lowdown on their Rollercoaster package tour.
t’s blasphemy, William. ‘Er. . ?’ Wanting to die like Jesus. ‘Erm, well, life’s crap sometimes,‘ mumbles Reid the elder. ‘That’s all.’ It’ll upset people.
‘Naw. . .’
We’re discussing — or, rather, I am discussing whilst William drawls lazily — the lyric (‘I wanna diejust like Jesus Christ’) of The Jesus And Mary Chain’s recent 45. ‘Reverence’. ‘You’ll speak to William, the guitarist, but him and his brother (Jim, vocals) are interchangeable,’ their press
might have added. Unforthcoming. withdrawn, or just plain slow would have sufficed. Likeable moptop that he is, when you speak to William Reid, you pinch yourself occasionally to avoid dropping off between words.
But space-cake delivery and provocative imagery are what we require from our iconoclastic institution, the Mary Chain. In 1985, nearly a decade after Johnny Rotten first swore on TV, the East Kilbride radicals gave parents and papers something new to protest about. Leather of trouser, Cuban of heel, the JAMC emerged amidst Thatcher- wrought unrest, offering as their ticket to — first cult and later mainstream — glory a progressively coherent series of brooding, formulaic melodies trapped beneath a squalling maelstrom of aggressive guitar feedback. Listening to a Mary Chain track is like trying to appreciate a beautiful landscape through a shattered windscreen. In their ongoing marriage of tune and anti-tune, the Reid brothers owe more to seminal New York acts Suicide and The Velvet Underground than to punk. Their early gigs ended in riots. They claimed to take drugs. The Sun called them ‘offensive’. The same newshounds who labelled them ‘the new Sex Pistols myopically insisted that the amphetamine- authorised band would ‘burn themselves out within a year’.
Seven years on, they’re still burning, still rough-edged with a whistleable undertow, and still selling records. Their forthcoming LP, Honey’s Dead, will be their fifth album (counting 1988’s B-sides compilation, Barbed Wire Kisses). Since their ferocious debut, Psychocandy, the Chain have streamlined, but never adulterated their art; the crisp, acoustic-fringed Darklands. featuring Top Ten single ‘April Skies’, and the eerily Bolanesque Automatic illustrate, as does Honey ’3 Dead, a modern musical unit capable of haunting melody, confrontational aspect and watertight integrity. Now, they’re off round the isle with a four-headed live ‘Rollercoaster Tour’ package — themselves, uppety riff-gazers Blur, downbeat Yankee noise-grungers Dinosaur Jnr. and ethereal, experimental racket-makers My Bloody Valentine. Pinch l yourself.
I ‘It was our idea.’ William somnambulates. i ‘We wanted to do that big bill thing that was popular in the 60s. The Clash. Buzzcocks
agent, Mick, had chuckled. Reticent, too, he
and Pistols did it in the 705 too. In America, this package of bands idea is common, but here, because the country’s small, it’s not done. We just rang up three bands we liked and, to our surprise. they all agreed to join us. We’re taking the perk of playing last every night, because we organised it. Ifthe tour’s a flop, then we get the blame. It works both ways.’
Apparently, in their 45-minute (as for all four acts) set, there’ll be ‘new material’ on show from the Chain. So. what can we expect?
‘I don’t know,‘ whispers William, worryingly since he’ll, presumably. be supplying the riffs on the night. ‘Honey’s Dead’s a good album. We try to be radically different with every new release. The new stuff’s more rhythmic, ifanything.’
A concession to the dance-crazed 90s, a new way to unlock the door after the late—80s acid scene almost left you in the wilderness, searching for a new key?
‘Erm, a little bit, but it’s more to do with Jimi Hendrix,’ he offers. curiously. ‘The drums on his records are amazing: it isn’t dance music, but it’s rhythmically fascinating. We used a live drummer on most ofthe new album, as opposed to the programmed beats on Automatic. We’ve got a new band for the live shows. . .’
Time to drift off. But not before asking friend William how the years have mellowed him.
‘Well,’ he mumbles. ‘we live quietly nowadays. Our first six months offame was a weird, exciting trip. often literally. We got carried away and went over the top. Now, we’re fairly quiet, average guys really. We work a lot.
Seven years on, they’re still burning, still rough-edged with a whistleable undertow, and still selling records.
‘But there’s no way we’ve become part of the establishment,’ he concludes, rather animatedly. ‘Because you’ve been around seven years doesn’t mean you’re put out to graze. It’s nice when young bands namecheck you as an influence, but it doesn’t mean you’ve been assimilated into the rock establishment. If you’re still paving the way, still making music that’s relevant, then you’re still up there. Listen to our new LP. 1 don’t think the years have mellowed us at all.’
So, William still wears a dead black cat on his head in the name of a hairdo. Jim still prefers a startled ginger tom. And the tunes keep coming, as Honey ’3‘ Dead testifies. purer and no less provocative with the years. And they’re still upsetting religious types with their new single, as they did with their name seven years back. And the rock rollercoaster lurches on. Nothing changes but it stays the same.
The Rollercoaster (our hits the SEC( ‘. Glasgow on Wed 25.
12 The List 13 — 26 March 1992