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 Rock and Madchester 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 anyway. 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 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 (2003). After years of Jim and William barely even speaking to each other 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". They've toured off and on since then, and a new album eventually appeared in 2017.
- 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.
- Damage and Joy (2017)
- Alternative Rock: One of the Trope Codifiers for the genre.
- Bookends: Munki begins with "I Love Rock and Roll" and ends with "I Hate Rock and Roll." Honey's Dead opens with "Reverence" and ends with "Frequency", which is basically "Reverence" done In the Style of... The Modern Lovers.
- Break-Up Song: "April Skies"And there's one thing I couldn't do
Sacrifice myself to you
- Honey's Dead was meant to lampshade that they didn't sound like "Just Like Honey" anymore.
- 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" and Leonard Cohen's "Tower of Song", among others.
- Elvis Lives: ...and Bob Dylan's dead, according to "Fizzy".
- Happy Rain: "Happy When It Rains", though both the lyrics and Jim's typical monotone hint that maybe he shouldn't be happy about it.Looking at me enjoying something
That feels like feels like pain
- 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.
- Let's Duet: "Sometimes Always" on Stoned & Dethroned with Hope Sandoval, "Two Of Us" on Damage and Joy with Isobel Campbell or Sky Ferreira depending on which version you hear.
- 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.
- Love Is a Drug: "You Trip Me Up", "Some Candy Talking"... actually, pretty much any love song they do will probably have drug metaphors in it, or vice versa.
- Mohs Scale of Rock and Metal Hardness: Much of Psychocandy 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, Honey's Dead went with more industrial/baggy influences, 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.
- Re-release the Song: Several songs on Damage and Joy are re-recordings of tracks from various solo projects.
- Rule of Cool: They're reliant on this musically, especially the campy Hard Rock of Automatic.
- Sibling Rivalry: Oh yeah.Jim: After each tour we wanted to kill each other, and after the final tour we tried.
- Something Blues: The B-side "Write Record Release Blues"
- 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 and Roll" has sarcastic 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