WASHINGTON, October 07, 2015 – To look at their chart positions and sales, it would be hard to understand why the Jesus and Mary Chain was nearly sold out for their recent show at DC’s 9:30 Club. This is a band that made a decent-sized impact in the UK, but was relegated to cult status in the US. Yet for their set here, people filled the venue right to the club’s back wall.
As is true with a lot of cult alternative rockers, it’s hard to fully gauge what their impact once was and still may be as well as the effect they have on audiences in our current time frame.
Despite the fact Jesus and Mary Chain officially disbanded roughly 16 years ago, the energy they put out at the 9:30 Club made it feel like they were a relevant, happening band, even if they were never that relevant with the general public to begin with, at least within the context of their own collective skin.
After splitting up in 1999, the Jesus and Mary Chain eventually re-formed, and they have been doing a series of reunion shows since 2007. This specific show was put together to celebrate the 30th anniversary of their first and arguably most significant album Psychocandy.
That said, most of the people in attendance at their 9:30 Club show weren’t compelled to do so due to their extensive knowledge of Psychocandy. Nonetheless, this was an album of seminal importance for a lot of subgenres that cropped up in the wake of the alternative music that had erupted in the ‘80s.
But make no mistake: Psychocandy is a huge album, not only because it’s a damn good pop/rock album. The actual recording had massive reverberations that can still be felt today. The Jesus and Mary Chain might not have been the first band to make use of guitar feedback. But the way they incorporated this into their sound was groundbreaking, directly or indirectly influencing the 1990s generation of grunge innovators and imitators.
The band was also able to combine sonic dissonance with clever and crafty songwriting in a way no one had really thought of before. All this is embodied in Psychocandy. The influential direction the Jesus and Mary Chain took with this album probably isn’t talked about enough.
Of course, Psychocandy is very much a young man’s album. When brothers Jim and William Reid – the only original members of the band left today – started the Jesus and Mary Chain and recorded Pyschocandy, it wasn’t an act of desperation. But these were guys trying to make their musical mark on a relatively light budget. It’s during such moments that brash, sometimes raw and unformed ideas are embraced to their fullest extent out of necessity, and something important can come out of it.
By the same token, it’s why the band moved away from that sound in their succeeding albums. As a band evolves (and gets a bigger recording budget), the impact and the sound of the original can be difficult things to replicate. And an ambitious band also wants to evolve. The Jesus and Mary Chain didn’t abandon everything as they evolved. But the sonic urgency of Psychocandy just wasn’t there on their later album, even as their pop sense remained the same. In shot, as they matured, they became a somewhat less abrasive band.
Which brings us back to their current tour which included their 30th anniversary show at the 9:30 Club. Jim and William Reid aren’t the 20-year olds they were in 1985, and Phil King on guitars, Mark Crozer on bass, and Brian Young on drums were never a part of the original band during its heyday. Taken together, this is a significantly different iteration of the Jesus and Mary Chain than the one that audiences heard way back in 1985.
This isn’t an unfortunate development at all. Today, these band members are simply more mature musicians. The show here was a slicker production than anyone might have been expected, particularly for anyone who’d come expecting a letter- and note-perfect replication of the band’s Psychocandy sound.
But for the Jesus and Mary Chain, both their album and the band itself more than the performers who might have been drowned out by fuzz in a larger venue than the once they were once used to some 30 odd years ago. The songs played here in their entirety off Psychocandy sounded much crisper and cleaner than would have been the case in years past. But that’s what the passage of time will do. That involves not only how the songs are approached today, but also how the band still appreciates these songs they created.
Shows and tours like this one are for fans who never had the chance – especially here in the States – to get some idea as to how the Jesus and Mary Chain might have performed a set during the time when Psychocandy was vitally and creatively relevant. It also allows the band to revisit songs they may not have thought about, much less played, in a very long time.
All in all, it’s a chance for the Jesus and Mary Chain to celebrate with their fans, where they’ve been and who they are now. And that’s precisely what happened during their performance at the 9:30 Club.