Music: The Jesus and Mary Chain

The Reid brothers

"I don't mind about the state of my mind
But you know it's good for nothing
And I left you behind
It's a sick sick city
But it's never gonna make me insane"
"Blues from a Gun"

The Jesus and Mary Chain are the Trope Codifiers for the genre of Noise Pop.

The band was formed in 1983 by Scottish brothers Jim and William Reid, who wanted to put together their passion for noisy rock and experimental music (Velvet Underground and Einstürzende Neubauten especially) with their love of classic pop such as Brian Wilson, Phil Spector and various Girl Groups. Jim assumed lead vocal duties, while William became the lead guitarist. They then happened upon an idea: why not use catchy pop melodies, play them through an ear-destroying amount of feedback and noise, and sing like you're about to fall asleep at any moment?

Jim and William have remained the only two constant members of the band since, with a large assortment of musicians floating through various lineups, mostly for live performances, as the brothers ended up handling everything (guitars, bass, drum machine programming, synthesizers). JAMC soon signed with Creation Records, releasing their debut album Psychocandy in 1985. This brought critical acclaim to the band and has retained historical importance as the first Noise Pop album.

The Jesus and Mary Chain became infamous for having short concerts (generally around 20 minutes) that ended with violence or riots, a reputation that stayed with them throughout their early years. The brothers felt they had done as much as they could with pure noise pop and made their next albums, Darklands and Automatic, New Sound Albums - the former was more melodic and acoustic while the latter was classic-rock influenced Alternative Rock. Both were well-received and spawned a few hits ("Happy When It Rains" and "Darklands" for the former, "Head On" and "Blues from a Gun" for the latter).

The band's first album of The '90s, Honey's Dead, continued with the sound of Automatic but added more Industrial Metal influences. Its first single, "Reverence" attracted controversy for its lyrics (with choice couplets like I wanna die just like Jesus Christ/I wanna die on a bed of spikes and I wanna die just like JFK/I wanna die in the USA) and was banned from being played on BBC Radio 1 and Top of the Pops. It became a hit in the UK. Another New Sound Album followed, Stoned & Dethroned, which was very melodic and folky, but intra-band tensions were worsening. After another album, The Jesus and Mary Chain split up for good in 1999.

The band received more attention post-split through Revival by Commercialization, as Sofia Coppola used their song "Just Like Honey" at the end of Lost in Translation. The band finally reunited in 2007, playing for the first time in 8 years at the Coachella Festival. Notably, Scarlett Johansson joined them on stage to sing backing vocals on "Just Like Honey". According to Jim, new material is being written, though it's still tense between him and William, so it's unsure if a new album will happen.

Discography:
  • Psychocandy (1985)
  • Darklands (1987)
  • Barbed Wire Kisses (1988) - compilation of B-sides and non-album material
  • Automatic (1989)
  • Honey's Dead (1992)
  • The Sound of Speed (1993) - compilation of B-sides and non-album material
  • Stoned & Dethroned (1994)
  • Munki (1998)
  • The Power of Negative Thinking: B-sides and Rarities (2008) - box set.

Tropes:

  • Alternative Rock
  • Bookends: Munki begins with "I Love Rock And Roll" and ends with "I Hate Rock And Roll."
  • Call Back: Thirteen years after "Never Understand", they write a song (on Munki) called "Never Understood".
  • Cool Shades: Frequently.
  • Cover Version: Employed often for B-sides. Includes The Beach Boys' "Surfin USA", Leonard Cohen's "Tower of Song", among others.
  • I Am the Band: Jim and William are the primary writers and performers on all of their albums, as well as the only consistent members.
  • Looks Like Cesare + '80s Hair: The Reid brothers were known for their Robert Smith-like hair in The '80s.
  • Loudness War: Definitely on the first two albums. With feedback.
  • Mohs Scale of Rock and Metal Hardness: Much of Psychocandy arguably goes up to 7-8 due to the feedback. Later albums go down to 4-6, with the odd track going lower, while Stoned & Dethroned is a pretty solid 2-4.
  • New Sound Album: Darklands moved from Noise Pop to skeletal Indie Rock, Automatic was more 70s Hard Rock-influenced, Stoned & Dethroned was acoustic and folky, and Munki was more noisy Alternative Rock. They never completely abandoned the noise, though the ratio of it to Indie Rock varied with every album.
  • Noise Pop: Trope Codifiers with Psychocandy Later albums are less this and more Alternative Rock, though they always had some noise going on.
  • Perishing Alt Rock Voice: Both brothers have breathy, sleepy voices. Qualify as Trope Codifiers as well.
  • Rule of Cool: They're reliant on this musically, especially the campy Hard Rock of Automatic.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Sibling Rivalry: Oh yeah.
    Jim: After each tour we wanted to kill each other, and after the final tour we tried.
  • Standard Snippet: The distinct dum-du-dum-tsch drum beat that kicks off "Just Like Honey" was originally a Shout-Out to The Ronettes' "Be My Baby", but has since been used by just about every indie rock band.
  • Start My Own: No less than two of their drummers did this with a fair amount of success - Bobby Gillespie with Primal Scream, and John Moore with Black Box Recorder.
  • Surprisingly Gentle Song: Make that album - Darklands and Stoned & Dethroned.
  • Take That: "I Hate Rock & Roll" has sarcasmic disdain for MTV and the BBC. "I love it when they're shittin' on me."
  • Three Chords and the Truth: Their music is very simplistic, sometimes not even bothering with a third chord. As described in the booklet included in The Power of Negative Thinking, the Reid brothers were more concerned with the feel of the music than technical ability.
  • Word Salad Lyrics