...the bass and drums move along like a prozaced single mother, dragging the ...
Deborah Hawkes 2003-06-09
Early Jesus And Mary Chain gigs are the stuff of rock legend -wall of sound feedback; twenty minute sets; bottle fights; their backs to the audience; jaw-dropping squalls of distortion.
That was the early days. By the time the Rollercoaster indie circus of 1992 hit Sheffield, the Reid brothers were no longer embracing Brecthian alienation techniques but loving trying to replicate the US Lollapalooza tour. On the evidence of the first 7 tracks on this album they were clearly relishing performing arena stylee.
The Rollercoaster line up included Blur, My Bloody Valentine and Dinosaur Jr, so the short set was more necessity than a return to old habits. The songs from the then recently released Honey's Dead (a reference to Pyschocandy's "Just Like Honey" - the Reids wanted it officially known they had "moved on"). The opener ''Catchfire'', the first track on Honey's Dead, shows how the Chains were sitting up and taking note of the Madchester scene with a thin vein of danceablitly neatly surviving the distortion being painted all over it.
After ripping into punk pedal mania with "Blues from a Gun", "Head On" continues the theme. Not until ''Reverence'' do you seen how much they have moved on since Pyschocandy. Not much. But "Reverence" is their Screamadelica moment. While Bobby Gillespie took the Rolling Stones to the dance floor this is Jesus And Mary Chain reversioning their own rock 'n' roll. And it's a gem. The performance has a tight irresistible energy. Its crazed distortion neatly judged and like Jim's stateside wail it never loses the plot completely.
"Far Gone Out" and "Halfway Crazy" provide sub pop relief before crawling into "Sidewalking". But this sleaze rock anthem never reaches the depths it's trying to suggest. More disappointment than decadent, the bass and drums move along like a prozaced single mother, dragging the screeching guitars like a squealing kid.
But by the time we get to 1995 it feels like there's prozac everywhere. The Trinity Bristol gig has more than a whiff of break up about it. Tired vocals do nothing for some of the sweeter melodies. In the studio tracks from Stoned And Dethroned ("Everybody I Know", "Come on", "Hole") are a sack of bitter, yet hopeful, self-loathing in a pseudo-acoustic loveliness. Here it is just bad karaoke. Even "Reverence" fails to stir. Only later in the 11 track set does it briefly come to life on "Sugar Ray". Nor does the quality of this recording help them out.
Guitars sound thin and muffled. The layers of sound reduced now that the ever-present Ben Lurie has switched to bass and there's no backfill.
Even so for the fans this will be a welcome addition and it is certainly worth hearing the Rollercoaster performances which have been well captured here. But for the uninitiated, a better introduction lies with their studio output. Psychocandy, Automatic and Stoned And Dethroned will help you make sense of it all.