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Album review: The Jesus And Mary Chain – Damage And Joy

PUBLISHED: 16:30 03 April 2017

Jesus and Mary Chain

Jesus and Mary Chain

Archant

The Scottish band are left searching for past passion and power in their first record since 1998

It’s taken a decade since reforming for Scottish brothers Jim and William Reid record a seventh studio album, some 19 years after their last; producer Youth apparently helped keep diplomatic relations intact between the notoriously antagonistic siblings during recording sessions.

And while half the album has appeared in various forms on solo outings and similar, all have been retooled for this belated return.

Fans won’t be surprised to find glowering thunderclouds of gloom-pop and obvious, poppy ditties swathed in oceanic feedback. Lyrics, too, are mostly still centred on teenage conceits.

Opener Amputation’s punchy three-note riff is arresting and guttural at least, before things get more interesting in the brooding, hollowed anger of War On Peace. The protagonist, out of love, out of hope, asks “So what if I run / Where would I run to?” over drawn-out washes of feedback, before making a break for it to buzzsaw guitar and driving drums.

It should be a thrilling climax but, not for the last time, the musical talons feel blunted. Simple pop melodies ooze through sheets of gauzy guitar (Black And Blues) and three female foils, including Isobel Campbell and Sky Ferreira, offer emotive depth and welcome shafts of light – the candied regret of Always Sad is practically huggable with its loved-and-lost, back-and-forth execution.

The jangly ‘90s indiepop of The Two Of Us could even have been a Wannadies offcut but for Jim’s trademark, downturned insouciance.

Elsewhere, Facing Up To The Facts is a full-blown, heavy-set fuzz-guitar rocker, Jim snarling “I hate my brother, and he hates me / That’s the way it’s supposed to be” in between joyously crunching guitar riffs.

What’s missing in all of this is the tension and acrimony on which the band built its sonic appeal.

Jim declares that making a good record in your fifties is “a minor miracle”, and in that sense, Damage And Joy is a qualified success: the retooled material mostly passes muster but none is face-searingly great.

Its real problem is those visceral edges – the anger, gritty bluster and speaker-blowing, fuzzed-up abandonment – rarely slice through.

Rating: 3/5

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