Back on the Water Label: Planting Seeds
Normally, we wouldn’t go back and cover an album that’s been out for over six months, but given the current buzz about the Jesus and Mary Chain reuniting to perform at 2007’s Coachella, it seems like a reasonable move to offer a bit of information about what at least one of the Reid brothers has been doing since the band broke up in the first place…and why it may not even matter whether both of them participate in the reunion.
By the time the Jesus and Mary Chain recorded 1998’s Munki album (released on Creation in the UK, on Sub Pop in the States), there was precious little communication between brothers Jim and William Reid. Given that their relationship had reached the point where they were recording songs independently of each other – Jim has said, “William would go into the studio with the rest of the band and record while I wasn't there, and then I'd go in with them when William wasn't there” – it was clear to all parties concerned that the JAMC were coming to a close. When the split became official, Jim and bandmate Ben Lurie went off and formed Freeheat, while William stayed solo but began performing under the name Lazycame.
While there are unsubstantiated reports that Lazycame’s 2005 debut album, Finbegin, is disappointingly underwhelming, Freeheat’s first full-length release provides exactly what JAMC fans have been hoping for: equal parts pop hooks, blues rock, and guitar distortion. In fact, it’s so very much like a Jesus and Mary Chain album that even the most diehard fan of the band may begin to wonder exactly what William Reid was adding to the equation for all those years. (This is a concern that has occasionally rankled Wham! and Pet Shop Boys fans as well, but you quickly learn to put it out of your mind, lest it affect your enjoyment of the music.)
Back on the Water is a mixture of studio and live tracks, with the latter taken from Freeheat’s performance at the Paradiso, in Amsterdam, on March 16th, 2003. As a result, few of the songs appear twice, like “Get On Home” and “Shine a Little Star,” but this is at least partially because these particular songs have existed for quite some time. (In particular, the latter first showed up on an EP way back in 2000.) Maybe this is the band’s way of hooking up the fans who weren’t able to get their earlier, import-only EPs. Whatever the case, the live stuff finds the band sounding particularly raw and full of feedback (you’d expect no less, really), and it blends in and out of the studio material surprisingly well; occasional moments of applause sneak in, but not very often.
Call it a critical failing on my part, but, honestly, there’s not much to say about the songs themselves except what’s already been said – they sound like JAMC songs. But if you picked up any of Rhino’s 2006 reissues of the Chain’s catalog and dug ‘em, then Back on the Water should be your next stop.