It’s been nearly 10 years since the Reid brothers—a pair of siblings whose squabbles make those of Oasis’ Gallaghers seem like mere tiffs by comparison — reconvened The Jesus and Mary Chain, but it still seems like a relatively knew chapter in the storied band’s rocky tale. Perhaps this is due to the fact that they have only just released a new record this past year. That album, Damage and Joy, has been well worth the wait, though. Made up of the same mix of barbed guitars and Motown-esque melodies, the album picks up where the band left off nearly 20 years ago, not missing one proverbial snare-cracked beat.
Leading up to this show, I had seen them on their home turf of Glasgow just a few months earlier, so I knew that they had tightened things up a bit since prior tours and that they had the wherewithal not to neglect the new album in favor of playing the hits (though there were plenty of those too). Indeed, the band — Jim and William Reid with Scott Von Ryper (of The Black Ryder), Brian Young (formerly of Fountains of Wayne), and Mark Crozer, who also opened the show with The Rels — began the show like the new album, with “Amputation,” a cooly toned discourse on a doomed relationship, before transitioning into “April Skies,” whose lines about “making love on the edge of a knife” paired well with its predecessor. “Head On” followed and gave an added jolt of electricity to the set.
“Always Sad,” which followed, was one of several songs on which a female singer (sorry, I didn’t catch her name) joined the JAMC to handle the parts sung on the new album by sister Linda Reid, Bernadette Denning, Isobel Campbell, and Sky Ferreira, who I thought might show up as I had just seen her sing in town with John Cale the night before. The proof of the new album’s quality was how its tracks stood up to being juxtaposed with classics like “Snake Driver” and “Darklands.” That said some of the show’s best moments were unexpected surprises like “Between Planets” and “Teenage Lust,” which still sounds as sinister as ever, especially when William was given free reign to let his guitar wail and feed back. That wasn’t always the case, with Jim yelling at him to turn the fucking guitar down while he addressed the crowd at one point. (There’s apparently still some tension.) But he simply wanted to tell us that it was the last song before the encore and that they’d return if we made even just a wee bit of noise. And so with “Reverence,” William went back to sculpting glorious white noise with his guitar.
The band got more than just a wee bit of noise from the audience and soon returned to play another six songs. “Just Like Honey” was as sultry as ever, and “Cracking Up” equally hedonistic. Best, though, and perhaps the highlight of the night was “In a Hole,” the Psychocandy gem consisting almost entirely of guitar fuzz and snare snaps. It was gloriously cacophonous and had my head buzzing before they finished up with “Sidewalking” and “I Hate Rock’n’Roll.” Reunions are a dime a dozen these days, but The Jesus and Mary Chain proved that we should be eternally grateful for theirs.