The Jesus And Mary Chain – Damage & Joy (Artificial Plastic)

If at anytime in the last 30 years you liked the poppier end of the JAMC then there are plenty of good times to be had on their aptly named Damage & Joy. It plays to their strengths with controlled feedback, reverbed vocals and two note solos that sit in basic melodies, and straight ahead lyrics. Tales of girls, drugs, fights, late nights, hope and hopelessness all feature backed by a perfectly constructed mix of fuzz, drum, feedback, acoustic guitar and more. Each listen makes me realize that they have been imitated a lot but never bettered in their craft.

Maybe you remained tuned into their career after 1998’s dispiriting Munki, if so you  may recognize some of the songs on this record from previous outings. The opening psychedelic shot that is Amputation is in fact a  re-recording of Jim Reid’s  2006’s solo single Dead End Kids and All Things Must Pass appeared in a different version on NBC’s TV show Heroes.  But it hardly matters as production wise it all fits together seamlessly, recalling the classic sound of the first three albums.  It feels like a proper album not a collection of b-sides or cast offs. If you stopped listening a while a go then I’m here to tell you it’s time to dive back in.

While the rawness of noise for noise sake that can be found in debut is largely absent, it has the effect of highlighting the hooks and ear worm melodies that have always been at the centre of their songs. They have excellent musical taste and borrow happily from the usual sources. The Velvet Underground, Stooges, Suicide, Beach Boys, Lee Hazelwood/Nancy Sinatra etc but if the earlier work seemed to appear rebellious, angry  and somewhat adolescent, then these songs come from a place of resignation, acceptance, and middle age. It’s like having a long lost friend turn up on your doorstep post rehab sounding battered and bruised but wiser and calmer.

Take Facing Up To The Facts with it’s lines” I hate my brother and he hates me/that’s the way it’s supposed to be” or dare I say it the self help sentiment of  Presidici  “If you don’t know yourself/It’s bad for your health.”. But don’t worry its not all Yoga sessions and salads as Get On Home a Suicide driven romper makes clear with it’s nostalgic take on T-Rex  tales of  nights “… with a blow up doll and some L.S.D.”

A bunch of  female vocalists that includes Sky Fierra, Isobell Campbell (ex Belle & Sebastian) and William Reid’s current girlfriend Bernadette Denning, add another welcome addition to the aural landscape, making quieter numbers like Song For A Secret positively joyous and second single Always Sad sound like it is a lost Blondie classic. When Bernadette coos “You are not like those other guys” it makes me fall in love with her for the rest of the song. Simple but effective. Speaking of simplicity, no song outstays its welcome . Brevity helps focus these songs with nothing exceeding 5:00 mins and many getting in, saying their piece and exiting in under 4. Riffs aren’t milked to boredom and lines are bludgeoned into you. Smart, brief pop. There I’ve said it.

Under all the feedback, bravado and bluster the Jesus & Mary Chain have always had a healthy affection for pop and on Damage & Joy they use classic song tropes but still manage to express abandon, love, agony , ecstasy  and yes damage and joy in an exciting way. If the 60’s had never happened then a band like The Jesus & Mary Chain would be huge, and in the flood of mediocre music that assaults us currently, it’s refreshing to find people who still belive in the healing power of a great song.That is something to be celebrated.

Brent Giblin