THE JESUS AND MARY CHAIN
London Camden Electric Ballroom
A FULL hour of near motionless irrelevance down the dark trails of the soul and finally one of the black, hunkered shapes silhouetted against a hundred unblinking fairy lights chunders into movement. The one that looks like a leather-kecked mushroom cloud, sloping up to his brother’s microphone and whining a rally cry from a musical revolt long passed. “Riot”, it whimpers, half giggling, half weeping, “Riot/Riot.”
The assembled mob-cum-accountancy convention hugs the lampshade it tore from the wall of the Bradford Stoat & Feedback in 1986, fold their arms and await ‘Reverence’. And duly it drags itself into view at 0.03mph, crippled and castrated, its breakbeat filthiness hacked off, gangrene set in. Once it epitomised the Mary Chain’s compellingly evil appeal: all self-damnation, legendary suicide, guns and straining leather, the ‘live fast, die young, leave a curiously aroused corpse’ philosophy made scary. Now, as tonight’s apologetic encore, it’s a torturous last rites – as if the Mary Chain have actually died just like Judas Priest and this is their self-mocking headstone.
“It’s like The Jacksons without the pervert,” Jim Reid mutters. No-one laughs. You are invited to the all-singing, all-standing still, all-playing-the-same-three-chords-in-the-same-order-again-but-this-time-with-stupider-hair rollicking rock freakshow that is the Mary Chain ’98.
THRILL! at an inspired new Stars In Their Eyes segment wherein Jim’s girlfriend’s sister appears at the mic and IS Jim Reid (ie toneless, stationary and virtually inaudible) for ‘Moe Tucker’.
GASP! as William Reid, sporting a perm that could double as an airbag in emergencies, attempts to look ‘cool’, ‘dangerous’ and ‘enigmatic’ by avoiding any onstage lighting throughout. And…
PISS YOURSELF! at the ultra-tacky cabaret DJ stage-set that’s presumably on hire from TFI Friday. It’s a look that could provoke two responses: 1) That JAMC are cheap, disposable music biz sluts ironically pissing into the cocaine cauldrons of record company scumpigs or 2) that they’ve finally realised they’re the scuzz rock Status Quo and they’re living up to the bloated rock clichi they never had the imagination to overcome. Cast your votes… NOW!
It’s the deafening buzz of the motions being churned through, chewed 20 times and spat into a featureless sludge that swings it. To their credit they sidestep the turgid twangles of their ‘Stoned And Dethroned’ period but once-monolithic tunes like ‘Teenage Lust’ and ‘I Hate Rock’n’Roll’ may as well be shopping lists for all the bile and bloodlust they’re injected with. The new material, meanwhile, not only flogs the dead horse of ‘Psychocandy’ but mounts it and tries to ride the Derby on it.
From the opening shrug, through ‘Degenerate’, right up to the weedy white flag of wrinkled rebellion that is ‘Cracking Up’, they’re Mary Chain-by-numbers, but with the turbo nutter drum machine replaced by a Bontempi. To be fair, the reinvention as acid-ska pioneers, the giant glittering lemon and Jim and Bill’s acrobatic dance routine complete with furiously juggled dwarves was never on the cards. But what we didn’t expect was such a lifeless husk of the Mary Chain legend, attitood turned to indifference, lust for death burnt out.
The last great rock’n’roll car crash has finally been towed away, swept up and clinically tarmacked over. Move along now, nothing to see here…