The Jesus and Mary Chain - Damage and Joy
After much speculation, waiting, and sibling rivalry, the brothers Reid return with their seventh studio album; their first since 1998’s supposed swansong Munki. It has been a long and rocky road from their formation over 30 years ago in East Kilbride through amphetamine and feedback fueled live sets barely lasting 20 minutes, earning themselves bans in certain councils and baiting the press thanks to early management tactics from Alan McGee, to the revered Indie/Punk darlings they are today. Going their separate ways after William walked offstage during a gig, many didn’t hold out much hope for reconciliation (as if offering a template for the Gallaghers in the years to come). It wasn’t until a surprise reformation for Coachella festival in 2007 that there was a glimmer of something new to come, and the brothers actually getting on, Jim Reid suggesting they'd buried the hatchet somewhat. Despite regular touring since then, and a one off release of ‘All Things Must Pass’, it was all quiet on the western front until recording began in 2015 with producer Youth, who also provided bass and diplomacy during the process.
Damage and Joy picks up where the band left of nearly 20 years ago, continuing The Jesus and Mary Chain tropes of sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll. Overall it feels like the band have been a state of arrested development with lyrics and attitude that you would expect from a 15 year old nihilist, not from men in their fifties. This is by no means a criticism, as Damage and Joy never feels contrived or like a hackneyed cash-in on former glories. It is a The Jesus and Mary Chain album. With the fuzz guitar and feedback from William, Jim’s lyrics straight from the Ladybird Big Book of Rhymes (rhyming “high” and “fly”), and bolstered by solid production from Youth their return hits all the right notes. From rock anthems to the softer Shangri-Las influenced ballads; highlights include a re-energised version of ‘All Things Must Pass’, the hazy sixties fuzz pop of ‘Always Sad’ with guest vocals from Bernadette Denning, the anthemic ‘The Two of Us’, and ‘Facing Up To The Facts’ with the knowing line “I hate my brother and he hates me / That’s the way it’s supposed to be” still showing that the cynical wit still remains. Special mention must also go to ‘Los Feliz (Blues and Greens)’ which starts to veer into Creedence Clearwater territory.
The Jesus and Mary Chain aren’t, and have never been, a great album band. They released great albums but their ethos and influences have always stemmed from a pool including punk, garage rock, and Phil Spector-esque 60s girl groups. They carried this tradition on by making albums full of good to great singles throughout their career, and Damage and Joy is no exception. Overall there is a slightly more melancholic edge and knowing nod to their advancing years, Jim's suggested making a half decent album in your fifties is a minor miracle, but Damage and Joy is a solid step towards believing in miracles.