- 2LP - Translucent Red
Pinned against the back wall of the Glasgow Barrowlands by a tidal wave of mangled guitar, the pure malevolent power of the The Jesus & Mary Chain’s music made sense. This was 2014 and the first time I’d seen the group, despite being a fan for years. For Monorail staffers it was something of a group excursion, albeit a very short one, to see a group all of us have loved forever. All that love for this group was thrown back at the audience with brute force in the form of this spewing, feedback-encrusted din that occasionally hid some pure melodic heart. It felt like we were witnessing something of a miracle, this group 30+ years into their career sounding somehow more vital and crazy than they did at their inception.
Unfortunately none of us could make it to Jesus & Mary Chain’s triumphant shows at the Hollywood Palladium 4 years later in December 2018 but the volcanic menace, the snarl and ragged glory is even tighter, gnarled and sparkling. It’s documented here on Sunset 666 (Live At Hollywood Palladium). The furnace-heat of William Reid’s guitar, world-ending and fun at the same time, rides hard over these simple, genius pop songs. At the Barrowlands show I was fortunate to have an AAA pass as I was helping out with the Rose McDowall band’s support slot and got a sneak peek at the Mary Chain’s stage set up. I vividly recall looking at William’s set up, simple as hell, a few battered distortion or fuzz pedals that looked buckled from decades of being jumped on, a set list with the songs’ keys written in the margin. I imagined William being something between a mercurial wizard and the Energizer bunny; like in a way it didn’t matter what song he was playing, point him in the direction and this lava of joy and coiled rage came out in the direction of the songs’ structure. At the Hollywood Palladium, William feels coiled to almost breaking point: the Stooges punk vomit on The Living End feels like a rush shooting up the spine, with Jim Reid’s snarl feeling like Iggy’s petulant, perpetually kicked-about, pissed off little brother. You can tell William’s having fun even with the sustained feedback he lets fly out at either end of the track, originally the barbed follow up to Psychocandy’s opener Just Like Honey.
That song opens Sunset 666, the thunderous Girl Group drum pattern ringing out around the arena, before William crushed guitar sails through the air. Jim manages that tightrope-walking he’s perfected through his careening career: it’s pure East Kilbride drawl, sarcastic but undeniably sweet underneath, like, deep underground. It’s peering through the wall of sound, fighting through the fire fog of William’s guitar there’s a nugget of vulnerability in there trying to catch some air. And it does on follower Sometimes Always, Glasgow musician Isobel Campbell stepping in for Hope Sandoval. The beauty of a live set so analog and gloriously ragged as this is that you can trace the core of a song through the band’s DNA; outside the studio and a more gentle, radio-friendly production, songs from the Mary Chain’s later albums feel complete embedded into the distortion and big-hearted malice they summon on stage. Tracks from Damage And Joy like Black And Blues or Amputation feel genuinely scary and adolescent in the best way. All Things Must Pass is propelled by some heavy, muscular rhythm section machinery and you’re reminded just how influential this group are. You can hear them in anything from Spiritualized’s pulverising wall of sound to Brian Jonestown Massacre’s inebriated Rock ’n’ Roll street fighting, the more tender moments like Some Candy Talking feel like the blueprint for every noise-pop group that landed fully formed after 1986.
I remember a tension at the heart of the Mary Chain’s Barrowlands performance between the brothers Reid’s musicianship: William’s geologically challenging guitar threatening to swallow Jim’s vocals swirling in the vortex but here on these hard slabs of sound carved out of the storm in the Palladium everything is tight and straining at the leash. On Teenage Lust, William’s guitar is pulverising but it’s ridden all the way to hell by Jim’s vocal, lassoing the sound and directing it. On a nine minute Reverence the group stretch out, William strangling layers of fuzz in service to the trance, the effect feels like a classic Les Rallizes Denudes performance or a Crazy Horse home stretch with Young fully frying the tubes of his amps. William, of course, is his own thing and every bit the equal to any of those guys. Reverence as it’s performed here is the perfect endpoint for Rock ’n’ Roll: preposterous, revelatory, biblically daft and also all-encompassing. The death drive at the heart of Rock ’n’ Roll writ large, with Jim’s desperate “I wanna die” being skewered by the hellish, visceral guitar noise. It feels like the most alive you can be. In the moment, completely consumed.
Sunset 666 paints a complete picture of The Jesus & Mary Chain now. Not as a revival band or a group pouring over their past but as a bunch of musicians living in the moment, in this sometimes unbearably crushing noise and with these absolutely thrilling songs that run through the DNA of so much modern guitar pop music. Sunset 666 is a snapshot of the group in December 2018 but also it’s the quintessence of the group, maybe of Rock ’n’ Roll, period: vital, crazy, malevolent and joyful at the same time. I wish we could have all been there to see it.
Michael / Monorail Music
“In 1990, a young American band, full of a precise kind
of noise and darkness, were special guests on the US tour being undertaken by a group who had noise and darkness, poise and catharsis of their own. The young band: Nine Inch Nails. Those headliners: The Jesus and Mary Chain.
Almost thirty years later, an invitation was extended. Would the Reid brothers care to reverse the roles and open for Nine Inch Nails on their own North American tour? Trent Reznor had been a fan of the Mary Chain, and influenced by them since hearing Psychocandy, so it felt a good fit and the Reid brothers accepted.
The resulting tour ended with a run of six shows at LA’s Hollywood Palladium and the seventeen tracks captured on the Sunset 666 double album were recorded from the desk on two of those nights. Sides A, B and C are from the final show, December 15. Those twelve songs were the full set that night, in sequence, meaning the show began with the here-we-f*cking-go drums of Just Like Honey and ended with the ferocious euphoria of an eight-and-a-half minute Reverence. Side D of the vinyl record is taken from the December 11
show and serves almost as a mini-showcase of the Automatic album, featuring versions of Blues From A
Gun, Between Planets and Halfway To Crazy.”
Sunset 666 (Live at Hollywood Palladium) – The Jesus And Mary Chain is no longer in stock