Uncut, December 2010
Scree! Squonk! Also tunes!
Dance beats came and went, as did Bobby Gillespie and feedback, but the essential genetic code of The Jesus And Mary Chain remained otherwise unchanged for 15 years, as if the brothers Reid had walked in 1984 into some trashy America pop culture museum and though “with these materials we will build our entire career”.
This 2CD retrospective avoids the chronological view, and only reinforces the point, the pestilential feedback of “Upside Down” upsetting the set like a death in the family, yet still discernibly the product of the same process.
If you could map this sound, you’d place it halfway between Suicide and Johnny Cash, kindred spirits in the belief that that which is not broken is in no great need of being fixed.
Classic Rock, December 2010
‘Career retrospective from Scotland’s finest purveyors of industrial pop.
Like the Sex Pistols before them and the Manic Street Preachers after them, The Jesus And Mary Chain’s modus operandi at the very beginning was to piss off as many people as possible. The Reid brothers – William and Jim – achieved this objective in lightning time. With a debut single majoring in ear-piercing feedback, live sets that totalled 10 minutes (not including riots) and a sullen demeanour that made Robert Smith look like Norman Wisdom, The Mary Chain were public-enemy number one to some parts of the British media. The fury, wild as it was for a short period, muddled the birth of what, in reality was a great rock band – as well as the blizzard of distortion on debut single Upside Down, there also lurked a brilliant pop tune.
Follow-up Never Understand shared the formula – chainsaw guitars, metronomic drums, horror screaming and a chorus straight out of 60s-girl-group pop. The Mary Chain had nerve and it’s this quality that holds up over this 44-track career retrospective.
Unchronological, Upside Down doesn’t tell the story of The Mary Chain’s transformation from Creation Records agent provocateurs to gothic pop stars to rock ‘n’ roll class act. Instead it darts between eras and demonstrates the breadth of their career. When you’ve been as misunderstood as long as they have, then maybe it’s not a bad approach. Those early singles loiter strangely towards the end of the first CD, while the entire package also includes B-sides, alternative versions and rarities.
Just Like Honey, April Skies, Happy When It Rains and Some Candy Talking still sound remarkably fresh and vibrant – possibly because they’ve been used as a template for many dark pop bands in recent years, from Garbage to Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – the Reids’ alchemy of brutality and beauty making them among the most timeless of 80s pop hits. Elsewhere there are reminders that they grew up gracefully – Jim Reid’s duet with Hope Sandoval on Sometimes Always successfully casting them as post-punk’s answer to Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra, the wonderful Moe Tucker and I Hate Rock ‘N’ Roll suggesting that Munki, their final album, released in 1998, is worthy of reinvestigation. While All Things Must Pass – recorded in 2008 for the soundtrack of TV show Heroes – suggests a comeback would be more than a nostalgic exercise.
Twenty-five years after their debut single, The Jesus And Mary Chain finally get a career retrospective which shows why they are the most compelling rock and roll band since the Velvet Underground. Laced with classic Americana imagery, it’s packed with perfectly crafted pop songs that showcase their abrasive guitars, bubblegum melodies, strung-out vocals and heart-wrenching love songs.
Viva La Rock
Viva La Rock, December 2010
‘Brothers Jim and William Reid’s finest moments and more’
I first saw The Mary Chain obliterate a small room above a pub in Tottenham Court Road back in the mid ‘80s and simply had never heard such a shambolic, cacophonous noise before in my life. Little did I know that years later I would be buying singles like ‘Some Candy Talking’ and ‘April Skies’ – slices of some of the greatest indie pop music this country has ever produced. A love of ‘50s Americana and rock ‘n’ roll cut through with walls of distortion mark out this 44 track, 2disc, career-defining collection as unmissable. And with the brothers Reid getting back together earlier this year for a series of sold out shows the future looks bright again for The Jesus And Mary Chain. Unbeatable.