“They were smashing up pop music,” [a]Jim Reid[/a] famously crowed after The Jesus And Mary Chain‘s fans trashed the venue the night of the band’s London debut. And he would know, having hatched a similar plot with his brother when taking acid in disused industrial buildings paled as an interest. Rock immortality, the Reids reasoned, would lie in taking the dumbest of ’60s melodies, taking a faulty dental drill to them and singing darkly of candy. It worked.
These Peel Sessions are a chronicle of their scorched-earth policy that spanned the five years of the late-’80s when rock was reborn in a placenta of white noise. It’s a document of the Mary Chain‘s bilious, unruly magnificence that goes some way towards wiping the recent stains off their character, namely Lazycame and ‘Munki’.
The first four tracks here – ‘In A Hole’, ‘You Trip Me Up’, ‘Never Understand’ and ‘Taste The Floor’ – are the Chain‘s Rosetta stone, predating their debut single, and scouring new channels into Mark Radcliffe‘s (then Peel‘s producer) mixing desk. Much of ‘Psychocandy’ follows: a coalface of noise, where veins of melody can only be discerned once ears are blackened. By ‘Some Candy Talking’, though, the feedback has given way to the thrum of reverb, and violence to Velvets-like calm. Even ‘You Trip Me Up’ loses the roadworks, becoming a haiku of pop perfection. The attention-seeking squall was over.
But the business of forging nihilism into a career had just begun. Three tracks from the ‘Darklands’ era bring channelled guitar howls and the shock of cheery major keys. It’s little preparation for the coup that is ‘Sidewalking’, a monster of oppressive, sun-bleached swagger and surf guitar that refracted the JAMC‘s obsession with Americana into awesome new shapes. But the very same session also covers ‘My Girl’, the straightest-ever Mary Chain recording.
By ‘Silverblade’ the rot of over-repetition had set in. Yet the tail end of this body of work still stuns harder than most bands’ entire output. Because it’s the sound of a divine mission accomplished.