A second LP that successfully sidesteps the shadow of its influential predecessor.
Luke Turner 2011-11-17
When you’ve opened your musical career with a record as caustic, reactionary and as brutal as Psychocandy, just where the hell do you go next? Jim and William Reid, the brothers whose relationship had given The Jesus and Mary Chain’s debut (and accompanying gigs) much of its bittersweet volatility, chose to surprise everyone, including probably themselves, with Darklands.
Reissued as part of a complete revival/repackaging of the turbulent East Kilbride group’s back catalogue, this 1987 second album has stood up to the test of time as a record that has never been obscured by that violent debut. If Psychocandy took the sugary sounds of 60s girl groups and fed them through a mincer of early industrial influences, as well as The Stooges and punk rock, then Darklands turned its back on the motorbiking fuzz pedal for a surprisingly stripped down, melodic approach.
Although Darklands became one of the totemic albums of late-80s UK indie, to these ears it’s always seemed to be in a strange, crooning lineage that can be traced back to Roy Orbison. When it jangles, it’s not a fey sound à la The Smiths; instead, there’s a terrific throaty chug, the vocals garrulous and treacly yet romantic over the top – listen to April Skies, Cherry Came Too or the title-track.
Indeed, arguably the greatest achievement of the The Jesusand Mary Chain on their debut and its follow-up was their mastery of extremely dark pop. Let’s not forget that this band featured on the cover of the July 1986 edition of Smash Hits magazine under the strapline, "loud, spotty and weird" – other treats on offer in the same issue included "pull-out posters of Queen and Samantha Fox". Not until The Horrors broke into the top 10 earlier this year with Skying would music both moody and romantic so successfully infiltrate the mainstream again.
This reissue comes with a superb selection of accompanying tracks and videos, including the Some Candy Talking EP that features the submerged, snide goth of Hit and the sweet fuzz of the track Psychocandy – the bridge between albums one and two. Darklands, and its bonus content, underlines the fact that under all the backcombed hair and sweaty leather, one of the 1980s' blackest yet pop-loving hearts was to be found beating.