Performing their iconic Psychocandy in its entirety, Getintothis’ Andy Von Pip gets a taste of what Liverpool have coming next year.
‘It’s So Hard‘ to be objective about a band who you’ve loved and had unwavering faith in for the last thirty years. And the sense of excitement tempered with trepidation when news broke that the Jesus And Mary Chain were to celebrate the 30th anniversary of their legendary debut album Psychocandy with a series of special shows was almost tangible.
Could they do it and themselves justice? Would brothers Jim and William Reid’s well-documented often-fractious tinderbox relationship survive being in such close proximity for an extended period? Would sister Linda need to be called in to keep the peace?
Indeed in a previous interview a few years back when we’d asked Jim if the band would consider an anniversary style show there was a degree of cautious reticence when he told us “it’s a very hard record to play live, Christ only knows how we managed to do it all those years ago, in fact we probably didn’t! We were probably just so drunk that we thought we did.”
Pyschocandy changed everything. It injected anger, danger, swagger, chaos, and a swathe of beautiful noise into an anaemic mid 80s music scene.
Punk had sold its soul and many had lost their way via the fancy dress shop, emerging as those ghastly vapid preening narcissists also known as New Romantics. Meanwhile what was left of the alternative music scene consisted of twee jangly guitar bands in cardigans who made Mumford And Sons sound like Slipknot. Then The Mary Chain unleashed Upside Down and everything changed.
Psychocandy remains to this day one, if not the defining statement in UK indie guitar history and its importance and influence cannot be overstated. Of all the attempts to describe the albums sound, from ‘swarms of angry wasps trapped down a mine shaft’ to ‘the sound of imploding stars, and empires being razed’ our favourite has to be Jim Reid’s rather laconic description of the album as a one-word review of what it contains.
Sweetness and chaos – which is of course entirely true because the Mary Chain wrote pristine pop songs and fed them through a blender of twisted, deranged yet beautifully tender noise.
The reverb and feedback weren’t some sort of gimmick, they were an integral a part of the songs structure, as important and considered as a bass line or a guitar riff and added an extra layer of beauty and menace to the Mary Chain’s explosive early sound.
Many music journalists who weren’t actually there at the time have pointed out that they may not have been the first band to use feedback in such a way, because Google told them, but they were and still are the best.
Any doubts about the bands wisdom or ability to perform the album in its entirety were completely obliterated by the first UK show at London’s Troxy, which was merely magnificent, because a day later at the Manchester Academy their show was mind-blowing. While My Bloody Valentine may have taken the mantle of being the true ‘experimental innovators of shogaze’, they often neglected to include one crucial element, as memorably pointed out by Half Man Half Biscuit on Look Dad No Tunes.
MBV had the noise and the effects pedals, the sound-bites and the technical geekery but the Mary Chain always had the songs and the soul. Their line up has shifted over the years but has been fairly settled of late with Phil King (Lush, Felt) Mark Crozer (International Jetsetters, Mark Crozer and The Rels ) and Brian Young (Fountains Of Wayne) joining the Reid brothers to ensure that Manchester Academy was filled with a glorious expansive noise of ear shredding beauty.
The decision to invert the traditional ‘play the set and then the encore’ format was typical Mary Chain who never quite do what’s expected, and before they launched into Psychocandy they performed their reverse encore, a kind of mini greatest hits segment kicking off with their dark doom pop classic April Skies.
It also contained a staggering mind bending version of Reverence in which William, lurking in the shadows. had free reign to wrench and tear all manner of gloriously twisted notes from his guitar.
As if to cover all their history they included an early bedroom demo Up Too High when the brothers were known as The Poppy Seeds, proving even back then the Reids had a natural ear for melody.
Upside Down showed their flip side and promoted some rather insane moshing carnage from the audience and when Some Candy Talking began minus the now almost traditional Mary Chain mis-start you got the impression the brothers are more focused than they’ve been in years… At one point they may have even smiled at each other!
The band left the stage briefly prompting fears that they’d done a quick twenty minute set and just like the old days, buggered off. But they quickly returned to perform Pyschocandy in its entirety.
Jim’s vocals were perfect and William’s sonic thunderbolts although seismic, never overwhelmed the songs (which was the one problem on Never Understand the previous night at The Troxy rendering Jim’s voice almost impossible to discern.) Just Like Honey was as languid and poignant as ever, providing respite before The Living End and Taste The Floor induced more frenzied moshing.
We won’t list each song but when you hear the album live you really get a sense of ‘intent’ you detect that there was nothing accidental or serendipitous about how Psychocandy turned out. The Reid’s meticulously plotted this album in their bedroom back in East Kilbride, and thirty years later it’s still retains its potency and explosive primal power.
It’s difficult to chose a highlight from the set but Taste Of Cindy makes a virtue out of brevity and is a perfect fusion of The Shangri-las/The Ramones and The Velvets, whilst Something’s Wrong and The Hardest Walk are masterful examples of how to fuse melody, noise and real emotion.
People often miss the depth within the Mary Chain’s songs, the shimmering and emotional honesty and openness that bubbles beneath the surface. There are those who subscribe to the view that the band don’t connect with the crowd because there’s often very little talk between songs, but they should just listen to the music. That’s all the emotional connection you need. If you want chit-chat, you’re in the wrong venue. Go and see a fucking comedian because the Mary Chain have always been obsessive about the music. In fact, you feel that it’s that shared love, that absolute obsessive passion for music and the history of rock n roll that is as strong a bond as brotherly love.
So let us dispense with objectivity and cool analysis, save that for the guitar tech magazines, because music is supposed to induce emotion, to unleash adrenaline, to provoke excitement and inspire and this gig truly was everything a Mary Chain fan could have asked for and more. An emotional rollercoaster.
A perfect storm from a perfect band who would be regarded as national treasures, if only the fickle music press knew what the fuck it was talking about. On this form, they are still the most thrilling and the most important band in the world.
The Mary Chain bring their Psychocandy show to Liverpool in February prepare to have your mind and eardrums well and truly blown.
Pictures by Getintothis’ Sakura.