Going to a Jesus and Mary Chain gig in 2014 is an experience. Standing in the front row and observing all the tragi-comical ironies only a JAMC show could ever summon, I gathered that one, seeing middle-aged mums and dads regressing back to their 16-year-old selves is both an appalling and liberating sight and two, Jim and William Reid must be at that miserable point in parenthood where their childrens’ future has forced them back to their jobs.
Unlike most of the people in the crowd, I never got to experience that romantic and fated encounter with Psychocandy at a dusty record store or that rush of excitement waiting for ‘Just Like Honey’ to play at 2 a.m. on the radio. Instead, I listened to the album through the convenient and prosaic invention called the Internet. So later in the set when I see enraged people shoving and yelling “turn up the fucking mic!” it kind of reminds me of that one kid on YouTube who goes ape-shit when his mom cancels his World of Warcraft account and I can empathise. These are probably the same people who were at that infamous North London Poly ‘riot’ in ‘85 that molded the band’s notorious reputation.
Meanwhile on stage, Jim repetitively sings “I WANNA DIE!” from ‘Reverence’ and it sounds more than convincing. I’ve seen homeless people smile more than him. The other brother, William, has his back to the audience half of the time but nonetheless executes beautifully destructive melodies.
Everything I read about them prior to the gig described JAMC as the antithetical rock band, but seeing it first-hand breaches a new level. There’s just something about a man who looks dead on the inside, moping in life regrets and self-hatred in front of a band that shreds immense noise and joyous rock ‘n’ roll feedback that makes you question why this band is even a band. I feel you Jim, college tuition is a bitch.
They walk off stage after they’re done with the encore set they opened up with because after all, this is a band that indulges in anticlimax. When they come back on, a fresh new screen with Psychocandy-related clips and photos supplement the band and thus begins the long overdue, 44-minute set that single-handedly changed the rock scene exactly 29 years ago.
The thing about Psychocandy is that, all the blaring screech mystique or the wistful dreaminess that squeezes your very core and just the sheer brilliance that makes it an iconic noise-pop record will never sound as great on record as it does live. Lush’s Philip King plays guitar, Fountain of Wayne’s Brian Young plays drums, and Mark Crozer plays the bass to recreate the prolific album, from the allegedly drug-related, ‘Some Candy Talking’ to the heartbroken and vengeful ‘You Trip Me Up’.
There are the aforementioned technical difficulties that sometimes screw with their timing but nothing takes away from the brash and ethereal wonder. ‘Sowing Seeds’ and ‘Just Like Honey’ still sound exactly the same, as if they’re mocking the inanity and simplicity of their own music but that’s essentially, what The Jesus and Mary Chain are about.
Jim still hasn’t cracked one smile and William’s back is still to the audience, but I’m starting to understand that this IS their appeal. The dichotomy between noise and pop, rock stars and them, was what made them sensational. It’s not their age or their children that make them miserable, they were miserable WAY before that!
I walk back to the station, enlightened, that maybe life isn’t so bad after thirty but if it is, I’ll come back to Psychocandy, for it will be my turn to relive this moment with enough passion and ferocity to transcend the emotions of a heartbroken kid and his cancelled WoW account.