The Jesus and Mary Chain Reissues

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The Jesus and Mary Chain Reissues

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If we were to prepare an intro to our overview of the recent reissues of the Jesus and Mary Chain catalog that had the same amount of bells and whistles that these new CD/DVD sets have, it would read something like this:

The Jesus and Mary Chain re-released their albums. Here is our review of them.

That, however, is something that we cannot do, and so instead we will ramble something about two Scottish brothers named Reid delving into their Velvet Underground records and adding a little dash of noise to an otherwise pristinely-produced rock scene. Critics’ darlings from day one, how have the band’s albums held up to the test of time? Talk to us, Mojo…

Buy your copy from Psycho Candy starstarstarno starno star Label: Rhino / Wea
Released: 1985
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Psycho Candy hasn't held up well over the years like it might be said of the band's later records; it sounds like it started out like a good album but someone played a studio prank during the final mixdown. The insufferably arrogant Reid brothers had a pretty good trick – recycling '60s pop melodies with wild distortion – so give them props for innovation. Yet while this album drew apt comparisons to the Velvet Underground and the Stooges, it was heavier on the distortion and lighter on the pop, a formula the band later reversed. Perhaps its inaccessibility made it the non-commercial critical darling status it still holds today, even though in places it's well nigh unlistenable.

On the included bonus DVD, The videos from "Just Like Honey," "Never Understand," and "You Trip Me Up" serve as interesting period pieces reminding us how, back during college radio's pinnacle, a band didn't have to have any stage presence whatsoever to be cool. You could just stand there and stare blankly and mouth the words as if you were holding in an enema and let the cameramen do the work with their pans, zooms, and pivots. While it's fun to have bonus content on a DVD – and the double-sided media with CD on one side and DVD on the other is trés hi-tech – the DVD could have been filled with great stuff like reviews, documentary-type material, maybe some live performances. But no, just the three boring videos and the credits. Boo! If you're going to give us all these high-tech baubles, Rhino, make it at least worth one spin in the DVD player.

~Mojo Flucke, PhD

Buy your copy from Automatic starstarstarhalf starno star Label: Rhino / Wea
Released: 1989
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This is the album where the Brothers Reid decided to rock…with a wall of drum machines. An odd idea on paper, but when it’s on, it’s on; “Blues from a Gun” still packs a wallop, as does “Take It” and “Head On,” which was covered a couple years later by American noise-poppers the Pixies. The problem is the sameness of the material. Several songs sound like clones of other songs (“Between Planets,” we’re looking in your direction), and not even the nifty drum programming can save them. Still, upbeat droning is better than just droning.

With regard to the “bonus” DVD, it would almost be better if they didn’t include it. It contains a remastered version of the album, plus three videos (“Blues from a Gun,” “Her Way of Praying,” and “Head On,” which features the most half-assed lip sync job you’ve ever seen). No interview-loaded featurettes, like the Depeche Mode reissues, or bonus tracks, like the forthcoming Cure reissues. If you already have Automatic, there is little reason to upgrade, unless you just absolutely have to have those videos. They didn’t even line up the type in the liner notes properly.

~David Medsker

Buy your copy from Honey’s Dead starstarstarstarno star Label: Rhino / Wea
Released: 1992
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Although we here at Bullz-Eye never feel obliged to meet the general critical expectations of “the man,” the general perception of the JaMC’s catalog is that the early stuff should be praised to the heavens, Automatic is where they got vaguely commercial (but they get a pass because the Pixies went on to cover “Head On,” and everyone knows the Pixies rule), and Stoned and Dethroned is when they got too mellow for their own good. Slipping between the cracks far too often, however, is Honey’s Dead, which takes all the ingredients from its predecessors and comes within an inch of perfection. It’s more organic (the drum machine has been replaced by a real guy: Monti, late of Curve), it’s well-produced (Alan Moulder is back behind the board), and, most importantly, it finds the middle ground between pop songs and feedback. “Far Gone and Out” remains one of the catchiest things the group ever recorded – though it’s neck and neck with “I Can’t Get Enough” – just as “Almost Gold” and “Good For My Soul” are as close to proper ballads as they’d managed up to that point. The Reid brothers hadn’t gone soft, though…and to prove it, they opened with a track (“Reverence”) which found Jim Reid declaring how he wants to die like Jesus Christ and JFK. He’s mostly kidding, though; otherwise, he probably wouldn’t have taken the very same lyrics and melded them to Jonathan Richman’s “Roadrunner” to make the closing track, “Frequency.” Some might call it another piece of recycling from a band who tended to rewrite their own songs as often as not; in reality, Honey’s Dead was the first time they put all the pieces in just the right order.

~Will Harris

Buy your copy from Stoned and Dethroned starstarstarstarhalf star Label: Rhino / Wea
Released: 1994
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When this album first came out, old JaMC fans weren’t sure what to make of it. It was acoustic-based, and all that beloved distortion and feedback was gone. Plus, there were even guest singers on a couple of songs, which was a first as well for the band. All of this is addressed in the liner notes for this reissue. The Reids weren’t even sure they had a good album on their hands when all was said and done, and decided to just do a short Stateside tour to promote it. When all was said and done, it was well-received and certainly my second favorite J&MC album, right after Automatic, which has always been unfairly maligned. Hell, see the review of Automatic above: even our own staff dogs it.

There are no bonus tracks tacked on to this, which is good, letting the original album still speak for itself. So yes, “Sometimes Always” with Hope Sandoval on guest vocals still kicks ass. “Come On,” “Till It Shines,” and “Never Saw It Coming” are also all proof that the band didn’t need to fully plug in to get their groove on. This reissue does contain a DVD Audio 2.0 digital stereo mix that sounds just fine. If you overlooked this gem of the band’s originally, now’s the time to get it in all its reissued, untampered-with glory. Dig it.

~Mojo Flucke, PhD