Thursday, 5 May 2016

The Jesus & Mary Chain - Psychocandy (1985)

Returning to the individual who once told me that New Musical Express was an anagram of Manchester Evening Post, during a more recent phone call we were discussing some record or other in terms which led him to reveal how his girlfriend had told him, 'that's so typical of you - preferring the song that's on the b-side.' I can't even remember what the subject was, but it came across as my friend congratulating himself for being always ahead of the curve, thinking outside of the box, taking the road less travelled and so on. It was as though he'd thrown on a beret, tapped the shades a little way down the bridge of his nose and cast me a look to say, you know, the thing I really dig about Miles...

This was hardly the first time, and this mannered, self-conscious edginess is clearly something which still matters to him. He just has to be stood at the window as you enter the room, affecting surprise as he is discovered studying the sleeve of the record now playing. Oh hi - I was just checking out some Basset Hound Fudgecicle - what do you think of their new album? - knowing full well you've never heard of the cunts. It goes all the way back to when we were at school, meeting Steve Harris crying with laughter because he'd just come from the house of our mutual friend, and our mutual friend had been wearing his mod suit.

'You could shave with the creases in his trousers,' Steve howled, even though I don't think any of us had started shaving at that point.

At the time I was myself no stranger to musical obscurities, having acquired quite a fanzine habit, but the difference between us was - so I hoped - that my discoveries weren't the most cock obvious shite that fucking everyone was listening to because it had been all over the NME for the past three months, and I couldn't have given a shit about being seen listening to it at an interesting angle, my treasured Matfield & the Pond cassette casually positioned on the coffee table in the movie set of my fascinating life.

The Sisters of Mercy were pretty big for those months during which the lad took to wearing black clothes and an array of beads. I discovered said Sisters about ten years later by accident, having long suspected they wouldn't be my sort of thing at all - quite wrongly as it turned out. The Sisters of Mercy were soon usurped by the Jesus and Mary Chain as my acquaintance revealed how he'd never liked the Sisters of Mercy, and in fact he wasn't even sure whether he'd ever heard anything by them. So this was one aspect of what I already disliked about the Jesus and Mary Chain, namely their stupid fucking fans.

I always hated that whole Creation Records thing of which the Jesus and Mary Chain were a significant part. It seemed like the return of some of the worst aspects of rock, not least the rock star as some guy in black leather trousers enjoying a series of blow jobs and expecting you to be impressed. It was a confession that punk and that which came after had all been a bit embarrassing, but now it was safe to listen to the Rolling Stones again. It was safe to go on about just how amaaaaaaazing the sixties had been even if you'd only been five at the time. It was safe to pepper your speech with words like gear, cat, fab, and dig and to know that you were amongst friends who would neither laugh at you nor call you names. It felt sort of like a betrayal, although of what I'm not entirely sure, but a betrayal nevertheless - a backtracking, a cop-out, a return to statements of the bleeding obvious made in the knowledge that the bestselling brand was really just what everyone had wanted all along.

Anyway, I'd seen Whitehouse live - which was quite an experience, although not necessarily a good one - and here were this new band who similarly played in front of a wall of feedback. Naturally I was curious, and my friend - the one who had never liked the Sisters of Mercy - sold me a copy of Upside Down, the record everyone was talking about. He had two because he'd bought a copy and then it was reissued with a picture sleeve, which he had to have. The pounding drums sounded pretty good, but otherwise it felt like some badly recorded sixties record, the Beach Boys played too fast on a shitty radio in the next room. It was okay, just nothing startling. It seemed like it was attempting to evoke the experience of stumbling around half-pissed with your hair in your eyes, just noise and distortion and adrenaline. The Ramones had already done it and were still at that time engaged in doing it about a million times better so far as I was concerned.

Then I surprised even myself by buying this album, most likely because there was nothing else in the shop which I wanted at the time, and also because I wanted to feel like I was in touch with what was happening and going down, or at least like I wasn't missing out. I played it a load, but now I can only hear these fourteen not-quite-songs filtered through subsequent interviews with the Reid brothers telling everyone how great they were, how hard they worked to produce such classic material, and how nothing was ever the same again after this record. As Velvet Underground tribute acts go, it has some decent tunes - mostly variations on the same one: E then B... Joy Division Joy Division Joy Division, E then B again and maybe A in there somewhere, mumble mumble, attempted American accent, candy, drugs reference, candy - that most commonly used of Scottish words - moan moan, pound pound, something that sounds a bit like Good Vibrations played backwards and end at just under two minutes. Job done.

Pardon Me.

As I was saying, decent tunes but it's really just a collage of every record the Reid brothers ever liked enough to stick on the pub jukebox, or every record the Reid brothers ever liked enough to make sure you discover them listening to it - Oh hi - we were just checking out some Big Star - what do you think of their third album?; and it does the same unremarkable thing over and over for about forty minutes, and this was the one that somehow changed everything. It makes Status Quo sound like fucking Schoenberg.

Psychocandy my arse.

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