July 21, 2024

The Jesus and Mary Chain: ‘Pop is dreadful. Switch on a radio, I guarantee it’ll be garbage’

Ten years ago, the Jesus and Mary Chain reformed. Reunion gigs were announced and sold out: the first, at the Coachella festival in California, featured a guest appearance from Scarlett Johansson, singing backing vocals on their 1985 single Just Like Honey. Retrospective compilation albums and box sets were released. Interviews were given and articles written, detailing the salient points of their career – their roots in the South Lanarkshire new town of East Kilbride, their feedback-drenched early sound (which gamely attempted to meld the melodies of 60s girl groups with the sulphurous industrial noise made by Einstürzende Neubauten), the chaos and violence of their live shows, their unexpected rise from music-press favourites to mainstream Top of the Pops success, their agonising decline – and lauding their importance. And among fans and critics alike, there was rejoicing that the relationship between Jim and William Reid – apparently irreparably ruptured after a disastrous 1998 gig in Los Angeles, which ended after 15 minutes with the brothers, as Jim later put it, “trying to kill each other” – had in fact been mended.

song of the day – “Just Like Honey” | THE JESUS & MARY CHAIN | 1985. |  FOREVER YOUNG

There was, Jim Reid concedes today, just one problem. Their relationship had not been mended at all. “The band was back together and we were playing live, but there was still … we weren’t really … we were saying to everybody: ‘Yeah, everything’s great now,’ and it wasn’t great. We were still sort of chucking things at each other at any opportunity.”

A long-time observer of the band might suggest that meant things were very much back to normal. The Reid brothers’ relationship was always legendarily combustible, marked by explosions of physical violence: as if to set the tone for the rest of their career, the pair managed to have a fight on stage at the sound check before their first London gig. Jim was apparently furious at the torrent of feedback emerging from William’s amplifier, a mistake that would soon become their trademark. Now, a big sticking point was whether or not the reformed Mary Chain should record a new album. William was keen: “I just wanted to do it,” he says. “I just thought: let’s go into the studio and just do it, rip it out in a couple of weeks or a couple of months or whatever, but just do it. I mean, it’s great to have a strong back catalogue and to play those songs on stage, but doing that ad infinitum … I thought: ‘I want to do more than this, I want us to be the way we used to be,’ which was an alive band.”

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