The Jesus and Mary Chain

Older, But No Wiser

Jul 10, 2017 Issue #60 - Father John Misty Photography by Steve Gullick Bookmark and Share


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"We just liked those words, 'damage' and 'joy,'" Jim Reid dryly explains in regards to the name of their new record, before pausing to contemplate them. "I think it does describe something: not the album, but the people who made the album."

The long-awaited Damage and Joy is The Jesus and Mary Chain's first album since 1998's Munki. The famously combative siblings, brothers Jim and William Reid, reunited in 2007, periodically touring their classic materialincluding full-album performances of their seminal 1985 LP, Psychocandyand have teased fans with talk of a new record since nearly the moment they got back together. It took them almost a decade to finally make it happen.

"Our previous record almost broke us as human beings," admits Reid. "It destroyed the band, and it was almost like having a nervous breakdown in the recording studio. I was not keen to get back to that."

Along with the trepidation brought on by the prospect of entering a studio again, the brothers disagreed for years over things like recording methods, and even where they wanted to record. Mainly, though, life got in the way. Both had welcomed new children into their lives since the band's split in the late '90s, and Jim, in particular, did not want to leave his young daughters for the several months it would require to lay down a full album. Parenting, he says, changed him.

"It's a bit like watching a female version of me and my brother growing up. My daughters will fight like cat and dog, but I don't know really what to do about it," he laughs. "You think I'd have some wisdom, growing up in a similar type of atmosphere, but I don't know how to stop them."

Gone are those near-legendary days of nasty infighting, smashed instruments, and audience riots, replaced with something far more civil. Reid doesn't feel that getting older has necessarily tamed their spirited natures, but he and William are now more likely to listen to one another when they argue. In spite of the more diplomatic working relationship they have now, he's quick to deny the notion that he and his brother are living proof of the old adage that with age, comes wisdom.

"If only that were true," Reid says, laughing again. "Unfortunately you get older but you don't get wiser. That's been my experience. We still make the same stupid mistakes we did 30, 40 years ago. To be honest, we know the buttons to push if we want World War III started between us. We know where that imaginary line is now, where if we cross it there will be trouble. And so, we give each other space."

Damage and Joy, like each of their previous records before it, features a conscious reinvention of their sound. The Jesus and Mary Chain approach each album as if they were a new band entering the studio to lay down their debut. ("If it becomes too comfortable, or too formulaic, you've made a mistake somewhere," he explains. "You've done something wrong.") With razor-edged guitars, biting lyrics, and a polished sound courtesy of producer Youth, the Mary Chain seem to have hardly missed a beat over their 19-year hiatus. It sounds unlikely their next period of silence will be so prolonged.  

"We were worried about making this record," Reid says. "We didn't know if we could pull it off, [but] it was easier to do than we had thought. We've got a bunch of other songs. We said, 'We'll see how it goes with this record and if people want more, we'll certainly give it to them.'"

[Note: This article originally appeared in Under the Radar's Spring 2017 Issue (April/May/June 2017), which is out now. This is its debut online.]

 

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