The Jesus & Mary Chain - Live at Barrowlands - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

The Jesus & Mary Chain - Live at Barrowlands

by Jeff Penczak Rating:10 Release Date:2015-07-31

These so-called Record Store Day exclusives are getting ridiculous. As more and more artists follow-up the so-called exclusive Record Store Day specials with regular releases, the cache is gone (as B.B. King, God bless his soul, might’ve said). Hopefully we’ve all learned our lesson – I just feel a little sorry for the legitimate bricks and mortar stores that were supposedly being “honoured/saved” with this propagandist, self-aggrandising, capitalist bullshit. So here we have JAMC’s trawl through a little masterpiece you might’ve heard tell about, recorded at “home” in the Glasgow Barrowlands last 23 November. But The Chain being The Chain, they don’t just hop into their debut with one of the greatest opening tracks of all time (the Beach Boys-meet-The Velvets magnificence of ‘Just Like Honey’). Oh, no. They’re gonna make you beg by teasing you with a half dozen or so ‘greatest hits’ to whet your appetite (and panties…). So it’s balls ahead for what may be their most sublime creation ever, ‘April Skies’, from the admittedly superior Darklands (maybe a live, sequential run-through is next year’s, er, Record Store Day special?)

           Jim exudes his typical ennui in superior voice for a mid-50 fucker. ‘Head On’ puts the petal to the metal to kick this evening’s entertainment up a few decibels on the “holy shit, am I really experiencing this?” meter, while William breaks out the razor blades to shred a few strings for ‘Some Candy Talking.’ So far, so great. To remind us what we’re here for, the band next break into their debut’s title track (of course it’s not on the album!), and it’s not the old nod off that’s hidden on the Barbed Wire Kisses catchall, but a more self-assured pop tune. Obscure demo ‘Up Too High’ is up next, and it’s a clear indication that the lads’ toss-offs were better than ¾ of the shit that made it to vinyl in those heady ’80s daze gone by. You’ve probably already read what they’ve done to ‘Reverence’ – doubled its length and moulded it into an irreverent sonic jam that’s equal parts Velvets, Neil & the Horse and MBV – and THEN whips out Iggy’s ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’’s piledriving riff just to prove how fuckin’ cool they are. And Psychocandy hasn’t even started yet! But speaking of debut’s, Jim announces “It’s 1984” and the band rip through a vicious version of their debut single, ‘Upside Down’, but they could’ve played ‘Mary Had A Little Lamb’ at this point and the crowd would’ve swooned in orgiastic ecstasy. Jim announces “That’s it for now. We’ll be back in a couple of minutes, so hold on” and, lucky us, we don’t have to wait like the crowd at the Barrowlands that cool November evening for what’s up next.

           So it’s on to this evening’s raison d’etre, as the band launch into the Phil Spector-in-leathers opening head rush, ‘Just Like Honey’, still sending shivers down the spine 30 years on. There’s even an unidentified chick singing in the background, an angel from on high no doubt wondering what heavenly choir is making all that racket down below. The one-two headfuck of the brain crunching ‘Living End’ and ‘Taste The Floor’ clear the cobwebs out of the synapses until William’s solo on the latter starts to peel the paint off the walls. Permanent partial hearing loss no doubt ensued.

           The Stooges/Velvets tag team still goes a few rounds with Brian Wilson’s mellifluous melody on a slightly over-rushed ‘Hardest Walk’ and ‘Cut Dead’’s “ba-ba-ba’s” and “duh-duh-duh’s” presage their centre stage envelopment of most of Darklands, but they’re a nice respite from the shitstorm of metal machine music that preceded. Jim thanks the well-wishers in the worshipping audience who by now either want to canonize him…or fuck him backstage; probably a wee bit of both. And when he oozes the sexual frustration of a generation while offering up a ‘Taste Of Cindy’ who could blame them. “Knife in my hand is the taste of Cindy.” Whatever is that lad on about?

           If there’s any disappointment in an otherwise brilliant and essential set is Jim’s lack of intercourse with the crowd, short of a few polite “Thank yous.” I know he never was mush for socializing, but for fuck sake, it’s been 30 years since we’ve heard this collection of songs played sequentially in their entirety. A few bon mots here and there is too much to hope for? And I can live with the fact that ‘Sowing Seeds’ is basically ‘Just Like Honey’ with different words, and I still leave the room to see that man about a horse when ‘In A Hole’ or ‘Inside Me’ come up in rotation, or when William decides to see how many sounds he can wrench out of six strings during ‘My Little Underground’, the hurricane-in-a-teapot blueprint of industrialised noise that Trent Reznor and Al Jourgensen turned into career-long obsessions. Because I know that Jim likes to trip as much as I do, ‘Something’s Wrong’’s gonna sooth the savage breast that my heart is about to burst through, and the Reid boys are back and don’t you fuckin’ forget it. Brilliant, lads. Now about that NEW album…?

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