‘I'm going down to the place tonight,
To see if I can get a taste tonight,
A taste of something warm and sweet,
That shivers your bones and rises to your heat’
You see Jim always puts it best.
Arriving early at The Troxy – in the scuzzy end of the east of London – where gentrification has yet to set in. Limehouse was an apt place for the return of the mighty JAMC – this wasn’t central London west end and bright lights – it was on the periphery – standing at the edges – but not wanting to get in – instead looking out. Leather jackets turned away from the surburban and mundane.
When I first heard Psychocandy – courtesy of my brother – it felt like the most thrilling piece of vinyl for a long time. At this point I had an understanding of who Spector was, rock n roll was played in the house – I liked it - but here was rock n roll for my generation (not theirs) it was full of energy and anger – confrontation and isolation - bravado and moments of doubt. It took the scowl of Lou Reed and wedded it to a maelstrom of white noise. It was coming from the tough streets of Glasgow – it was frothing at the mouth and screaming from its lungs. It echoed my steel town boredom and hormone fuelled adolescent – spotty kids playing guitar licks.
Jim and William felt like me and my brother – except we probably didn’t fight as much. But there was that insular – extrovert thing going on. And it’s evident tonight – whilst Jim’s upfront, slight swagger and confident (in parts) – William hangs in the wings – turning his back on us and towards his amps – his screeching and wailing emanating from his guitar is his only communication. He’s Ron Asheton to Jim’s Iggy.
So tonight at the Troxy it’s the return of Jesus and Mary Chain - back to their beginnings – who McGee declared the ‘best band in the world’ way back in 1985. Would they still be? Can a set of outsiders from Glasgow – now embraced by the mainstream – still astonish the world?
The evening starts back to front or ‘upside down’ (see what I did there?) – they’re always contrary these fucking scots – aye – I’ll just do it my way – so they do - opening with ‘encores’. From the opening chords of April Skies it’s clear that they are here to take no prisoners. They are going to assault the ears and lead us right into a mess of sound. Whilst the sound is loud it’s clear that William is controlling the intensity. Jim’s not always clear in the mix – but it isn’t muddy - just brutal at times – and never more so than on Upside Down – a song I never thought I’d hear in a live setting – I was 13 when that single emerged in 1984. I am 43 now. It still rattled with chaos – as Jim forever upending his microphone stand – paced and prowled the stage as William layered the sonics and filled this wonderful venue with a snarling noise.
Then it was on to Psychocandy.
From the opening promotional film for East Kilbride all shot through with flame as the celluloid burnt and warped through the jump cuts and repetition of motorbikes, youth, buildings, hands, fights, decay and blurred shapes and swirls the JAMC are here to entertain.
Those expecting Douglas and Bobby to be in the line-up may well have been disappointed - but it’s fair to say they left way back then and have pursued their own rock n roll dreams. So we might not have the iconic two piece kit but we still have the brothers Reid and that Spector beat to bring is in and hold us enthralled for the next hour ( I know the long player is only 43 minutes – but we had to clap you know)
I often return to Psychocandy – I’ve been dipping in over the past 30 years. It’s still raw and honest and surprising. The Mary Chain were my Velvets, my Stooges, my MC5 – I hadn’t heard those bands at the point Psychocandy emerged – well maybe the Velvets but the other two I can honestly say were not part of my record collection. They would come to be - because of this band. And this combination of metal machine music with the ‘ba ba baas’ of sraightfoward rock n roll was revelatory. You couldn’t predict that sound. You have to remember this was Wham time, Culture Club and Live Aid. We’ve got Band Aid again – right now – and right now we’ve got The Jesus and Mary Chain. They’re not trying to feed/ change the world – it’s just pop music (with an edge). And oh what an edge – this felt out of nowhere –it felt juvenile but understood it’s past – yet they were dismissed as a ‘band who couldn’t play’ and because when no one takes you serious - that makes you feel so dangerous – and therefore anything goes. From bedrooms come great dreams and schemes – couple this to a defeated working class and a riot strewn landscape then the JAMC’s brand of desolation blues was bound to chime with some of us.
So here it was tonight- in full aural glory. This was a run through from track one to track fifteen ( see that pop pickers – 15 tracks – value for money) As I said it was controlled chaos – I saw My Bloody Valentine way back when – and they were just too loud – lost in the mix – not creating aural landscapes but just causing hurt. This was explosive – but with modesty – it didn’t take over – Pyschocandy is a testament to the tunes that were played here tonight. The feedback is not added - it’s integral to the sound – that ringing sound uh huh huh. William is riffing and revving and the five piece are in full flow from the start.
This looking back to a seminal album does not mis-fire.
I am a moving and a shaking throughout. And I’m in the seats above. God knows what’s happening on the dancefloor. It’s hard to pick out a moment with a concert like this – you kind of dive in and suck it all up. You experience it – maaaaaaaannnn. But I guess ‘ In a Hole’ felt special – evoking that frenzied appearance on the Whistle Test and the first time I heard it in session on Peel – that’s my Mary Chain special one – and then of course there’s 'Never Understand' and 'Taste of Cindy' and, and, and. So it’s all buzzsaws or chainsaws and scowls and screams – Jim’s frontman posturing still hypnotic despite the thirty year gap – his voice was great – as I said hidden at times in the mix – but powerful nonetheless.
And then with the brief ‘ It’s So Hard’ (the only one that I feel sounds like it may have come from ’85 – with its Bunnymenesque bass and guitars) it’s over. It is all over.
Game Over – and it was.
When Psychocandy emerged it was a game changer – it would ultimately lead to the Gallaghers and Radio One’s embracing of the independent scene. Culture isn’t the same as it was – it never will be. We don’t do nostalgia here. This wasn’t nostalgia tonight - this was a revisit of one of the greatest rock n roll records ever made.
No swindle was involved.
Here is Upside Down - courtesy of Plastictoy1 - he or she captures the intensity