The Jesus And Mary Chain, Psychocandy (Blanco Y Negro, 2006 Reissue)

The Jesus And Mary Chain were a band with a mission. Twenty years ago, this quartet from the Glasgow suburb East Kilbride released their debut album Psychocandy. This album takes takes influences as diverse as The Velvet Underground, The Ramones, and even The Ronettes (the "Be My Baby" drum intro can be heard leading in several of the songs on this album), and torches them with searing, overamplified guitars and heavy doses of white noise generated with guitar feedback. The noise you'll hear on this album is no accident -- singer/guitarist Jim Reid said they spent months in the studio getting exactly what they wanted out of their amps. Psychocandy sounds like nothing that came before it, but it's influence on the grunge movement, not to mention some of the better current bands like Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, is unmistakable. If anything, The Jesus And Mary Chain make bands like Nirvana sound tame in comparison, but at the same time the 60's pop influence gives their sound an element of musicality and accessibility that most alternative music of the past fifteen years lacks. It is this combination that makes Psychocandy the kind of album that any serious fan of rock music needs to hear.

Curiously, the album's three singles, "Just Like Honey," "Never Understand," and "You Trip Me Up," didn't interest me as much as a few of the other songs did. "The Living End" and "Taste The Floor" not only bring more volume and abrasion to a song than even most punk bands could handle, but The Jesus And Mary Chain proceed to taunt the average punk band by throwing in an accessible melody and even a fourth chord. The sheer violence of the beginning of "In A Hole" makes it one of the definitive intros in all of rock. Try it with headphones and the volume up to the edge of your tolerance threshold; you won't be disappointed. The simple riff on the bass guitar that begins "Inside Me" lays the perfect foundation for some of the band's most anarchic guitar work. None of this is pretty, mind you, but it's real and powerful nonetheless.

This particular re-issue of Psychocandy comes in the special DualDisc format, with a CD on one side and a DVD on the other. The DVD side has enhanced sound relative to the CD side, but your DVD player needs to be state-of-the-art for you to take advantage of it. Furthermore, some older CD players may have difficulty handling the CD side. So if you only have older technology in your audio or video equipment, you might want to look for an older version of this CD. The DVD side also includes videos for the three singles. The videos are typical low-budget 80's fare, but you do get to see the band up close, as they were in their prime. I don't remember seeing any of these videos, which kind of irks me; I spent all those years overexposing myself to MTV, which indelibly etched in my mind plenty of bands I wish I could forget like Kajagoogoo and Dead Or Alive, but not this. Then again, I was a classic rock purist at the time, so I might not really have known what to make of The Jesus And Mary Chain twenty years ago.

Psychocandy is not for the musically squeamish. It is loud, ugly, unpleasant, dissonant, jarring, and quite deliberate about it. However, these qualities also make it essential rock and roll. Very few albums from twenty years ago hold up as anything more valuable than cheesy nostalgia, but Psychocandy sounds fresh and vital today, as though it had just been recorded.

Overall grade: A

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