Sunday, 20 March 2016

Oliver: The Jesus and Mary Chain - Reverence (18 January 1992)

When I began this blog, one of my intentions was to buy the records which my selections came from. Be they 7", 10", 12", LP/CD, I would track them down.  Once I had them, I would write about them.  It sounded perfect.  The mixtape would be metaphorical, but the Peel inspired record collection would be real and tangible.  All right, there would be records I would probably never play more than a few times, but then wasn't that to be Peel's lot as well?

18 months into this endeavour my grand total of record purchases stands at a mighty 6, of which only 3 have been reviewed.  The reasons for this are a mixture of money, time-management and laziness, with a side order of bafflement at how I write an album review of non-English music.  I've gained a fresh appreciation for the work of World music reviewers while pondering how to write something about Wenge-Musica Aile Paris beyond simply stating that the guitars sound nice.

In terms of the quantity of music bought, I could and should have pulled my finger out.  I've done plenty of research into the records and dear old Discogs hasn't let me down.  I've also received every record ordered through it swiftly. I simply have to take myself more in hand if I'm to do this.

One way of achieving it may be to go to more record fairs.  Where I live, the first Sunday of every month sees a record fair held at the local civic centre.  I always forget to go but a few months ago, I was walking past the civic centre on the first Sunday in, I think it was October, when I decided to pop in and have a look.  It was late in the day and a number of the stands there were packing up for the day, but others were still trading.  I had a quick whizz around the stalls and couldn't see any massive surprises but the moment I saw 21 Singles, the does-what-it-says-on-the-tin compilation of all the singles released by The Jesus and Mary Chain up to their break-up in 1998 (they subsequently reformed in 2007), I had to buy it.
Just a few days previously, I'd heard Peel play Reverence on the 18/1/92 show and I needed access to it immediately.  Peel stayed with The Jesus and Mary Chain pretty much all the way through their career, stubbornly refusing to fall for the narrative that said they released four amazing singles, a seminal debut album (which I've still not heard), played 15 minute gigs which descended into riots because of their loathing for each other and their audience, before finally fading into irrelevance when they toned down the feedback and concentrated on playing fuller sets by the end of the 80s.
I can certainly see why people may have felt this way about them, given the volatile nature of the relationship between Jim and William Reid, as outlined so superbly by David Cavanagh in My Magpie Eyes Are Hungry For The Prize and the quality of those extraordinary first 4 or 5 singles.  After buying 21 Singles, I put it on my car stereo for the drive home.  It was a warm October day and I was parked in a cul-de-sac which had a roundabout at the end of it.  I wound down the driver's window and started to drive home.  As the tender feedback apocalypse of Upside Down began to blare out of my speakers, it made a woman who was working on her front garden look up in alarm
and surprise as I swung past her. You have to admire any record which can do that.

The Jesus and Mary Chain never released a dull single.  Amid the chaos of their personal relationship, the Reids had an uncanny knack for knowing what would sound simultaneously a pop masterpiece and awkwardly out of place in the charts.  Screwed over by Mike Smith banning Some 
Candy Talking because of supposed drug references, they finally made the UK Top 10 in 1987 with April Skies, which led to a glorious-worlds in collision appearance on Top of the Pops in front of an audience who had bigger hair than the Reids for different reasons than they did.

Reverence should have seen them back in the Top of the Pops studio, when it hit the Top 10 in 1992, but again the record was hit by a ban, this time for the fear of encouraging suicide thanks to the "I wanna die!" lines.  No wonder the Reids' natural state was misery and malevolence given the fucking idiots they had to deal with all the time.  There's no question that as time went on, The Jesus and Mary Chain's records became more professional and better produced but they still maintained enough surprises, lurches and dips (I particularly like the "I wouldn't sell my soul for the half of it" bit) and sonic excavations - digging down into new sounds which, in this track, take The Jesus and Mary Chain excitingly close to Lalo Schifrin like funk, that I'll take Peel's view on their merits over and above any perceived notion of "one album and then move on".

Video courtesy of Mammoth Ness.

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