The Jesus & Mary Chain - Camden Roundhouse - Gigs - Reviews - Soundblab

The Jesus & Mary Chain - Camden Roundhouse

by Sean Hewson Rating:8 Release Date:2011-12-08

Psychocandy is one of the greatest albums ever. Every home should have one. As far as I can tell, there are no minor chords on it; there are no cymbals, no bass drum and the bass guitar only plays the root notes. It’s also full of beautiful pop songs, on top of which The Mary Chain put layers of feedback. Not to destroy them, but to improve them. I loved it in the 80s and I love it now.

So it is with some trepidation that I go to The Roundhouse to watch The Jesus & Mary Chain play Psychocandy. Not least because, when I last saw them in 2007, they were really boring.

In 2015 they start out with a short greatest hits set. Jim’s in good voice and at fighting weight. A shy man fronting a band of other shy men. William, to quote my friend, looks like Ken Dodd. April Skies, Head On and Blues From A Gun are great songs and are played straight and noisy. Some Candy Talking is a big hit with people who like to film songs on their phones. Psychocandy, Up Too High and Nine Million Rainy Days are a little dull and one-paced. Nine Million Rainy Days should take off during the end bit, but doesn’t quite manage it. However, the last two songs – Reverence and Upside Down – are excellent. Total sonic attacks with strobes flashing. Upside Down is extended and goes beyond noisy into that weird, other realm that My Bloody Valentine live in.

I’m still at the bar when they return after a short break. Too far away to see that it’s Miki from Lush singing backing vocals on Just Like Honey. For this part of the evening The Mary Chain – never the most demonstrative of performers – have sensibly decided to have films played behind them. During The Living End it’s a clip of a motorcycle and sidecar with L plates on. These are funny guys. There are also clips from Jodorowsky’s Holy Mountain, as well as more predictable shots of eyes, guns, etc.

Psychocandy live is not the all-out barrage that I was expecting after hearing friends’ reports of the shows last year. The volume is not uncomfortable and it perhaps should be. The feedback is also not as savage as on record. It looks to be mainly coming from Phil King’s guitar although he is hidden from me, along with bassist Mark Crozier, behind a PA stack. He applies the feedback at given points rather than letting it scream out over everything and it really works well. William Reid sticks mainly to playing the little lead melodies from the album, which are often as strong as the vocal lines.

Noisy, pop songs like 'The Hardest Walk' and 'My Little Underground' are intermingled with noisy, non-pop songs like 'In a Hole' and 'It’s So Hard'. The latter is drawn out into a big and brutal set-closer with William Reid finding a particularly discordant chord that seems to please him. 

Psychocandy is played tonight by a much more professional band than the one that recorded it. And it’s great – all the songs are highlights, no one messes up. It’s certainly better than 2007.

However, if I close my eyes and listen, I kind of miss Douglas Hart and Bobby Gillespie. I think that they played this type of music better than Mark Crozier and Brian Young, who are just too competent. I’d take inspired amateurs over people that actually know the names of the chords they’re playing any day.

Still, a lot of bands can make a racket. One or two can write a good pop song. The Mary Chain are still doing both and doing it well.

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