When The Jesus and Mary Chain released their legendary debut album Psychocandy in 1985, it’s potent blend of sweet melodies and roaring distortion provided a welcome blast of fresh air across a moribund rock music scene. Hailing from East Kilbride just outside of Glasgow, the Mary Chain’s enigmatic image – all shades and tousled hair – and adoration of both punk rock and sixties girl groups like the Shangri-Las set them apart from their peers. With drummer Bobby Gillespie going on to form Primal Scream and becoming an icon in his own right, the band’s argumentative central duo of brothers Jim and William Reid were left to carry the standard of noisy indie punk across six albums of varying quality and innumerable line-up changes, all the while retaining their indie credentials up until their dissolution in 1999.
After their classic track “Just Like Honey” was featured in Sofia Coppola’s 2003 Lost in Translation interest in the band was revived, and the Reid brothers buried the hatchet after years of bad blood to reform in 2007. Now with a solid new album, Damage and Joy, released this year the Mary Chain are playing a number of live dates across Europe, eager to prove that the old flame still burns bright. Often a mercurial prospect live, expectations were high for this Academy show – and despite the onset of middle age, they delivered the goods with a set full of the amphetamine-fuelled punk attitude of their 80s heyday.
The show kicks off with “Amputation” – the first song on Damage and Joy and a strong opening gambit, even if the track itself is a thinly-veiled reworking of Jim Reid’s 2006 solo track “Dead End Kids”. William Reid – the band’s sonic architect – with his trademark shock of now-greying hair, lurks in a corner of the stage behind the speakers, churning out ferocious riffs from his arsenal of guitar effects, while a trim and youthful looking Jim Reid proves an unassuming stage presence, even asking the audience to cut him some slack on the more vocally-challenging tunes. Old favourites “April Skies” and “Blues From a Gun” are received rapturously by a packed Academy crowd, while the songs off the new album maintain the momentum of a lean and fuss-free performance. A thunderous “Reverence” (the first track off 1992’s Honey’s Dead) closes the set off in a squall of feedback and bass rumble.
The band return for a run through Psychocandy highlights “Just Like Honey”, “The Living End” and “Taste of Cindy” – with that albums familiar storm of feedback faithfully reproduced, particularly on the still-exhilarating “The Living End”. Rounding off with a full-blooded version of Damage and Joy‘s topical state-of-the-world address “War on Peace”, the Reid brothers and co leave a baying audience sated, proving with this sturdy live excursion that there’s plenty of life left in this particular indie institution.
Far Gone and Out
Blues From a Gun
All Things PassNine Million Rainy Days
Just Like Honey
You Trip Me Up
The Living End
Taste of Cindy
War on Peace