The Jesus and Mary Chain - Psychocandy (Cover Artwork)

The Jesus and Mary Chain

Psychocandy (1985)

Blanco Y Negro

Released in 1985, debut album Psychocandy by The Jesus and Mary Chain laid the groundwork for the shoegaze genre as well as alternative rock in general. It's place in music history has been permanent and rightfully so.

JAMC started in 1980 and made music inspired by artists such as The Shangri-Las, The Stooges, Einstürzende Neubauten, The Velvet Underground (very much so), as well as the production duties of mad man Phil Spector and his unique "wall of sound" trademark.

Wall of sound is the best way to describe this album. It's a mess of noise and static. Washed over multiple times in each track, the production duties of the band as well as the engineering of John Loder really helped JAMC achieve their desired direction of being a guitar band amongst the emerging electronic dance scene of the 80's.

Album opener "Just Like Honey" starts with the drum riff from the Spector produced Ronettes song, "Be My Baby". The cymbals soon appear followed by simple bass plucks and screeching guitars. Singer Jim Reid then makes his mark with a baritone inspired voice, masked behind white noise as the song builds up to an eventual climax of pure volcanic bliss. This is one of the best album openers and a downright serious pop song, but soaked in colored textures and atmosphere.

Lead guitarist and brother William Reid blasts through the speakers, putting forth a dangerous sound of feedback drenched wails. Tracks like "The Living End", "Taste the Floor" and single "You Trip Me Up" shine through like electricity about to explode all amps present. What should be simple sounding riffs were often made more chaotic, like they were forced through a buzzsaw or jet engine.

(See My Bloody Valentine's 1988 You Made Me Realize ep for an example of what came after JAMC)

The rhythm section isn't a slouch either. Bassist Douglas Heart accompanies drummer Bobby Gillespie (left for his other band Primal Scream shortly after this album) with a very nice back-and-forth style in each track which adds to the overall mood. Both parts never outshine each other. In fact, Heart often played with only two bass strings and Gillespie with a small kit consisting of one cymbal and two drums. Combined together the rhythm sections carried the songs along with a sometimes brisk pace, only to be slowed down for the more droning sections.

Other track highlights include the sweet ballad "Some Candy Taking", the forceful "Never Understand" and album closer, "It's So Hard" sung by William who is almost indistinguishable from Jim.

Take note, that this is "hidden" pop music. Despite all the acclaim for the crazy noise, this album is great pop music that doesn't hurt the listener. Candy coated tunes hidden behind dreary lyrics about lost love and sexual innuendos, all shot forth like cannons to your ears

Two years later JAMC changed up their sound and made Darklands. That album produced a few great singles, but came with a more laidback approach and not the ferociousness found on Psychocandy. Future albums also showed more pop prowess and commerciality, but they were still decent enough if you dug through them.

Other bands that could be mentioned wouldn't be here without The Jesus and Mary Chain. Listen to this, then listen to whatever act follows along and see if they can pull it off as well as this band did. Dig it…