Wednesday, August 02, 2023

The Mary Chain are still ‘Half Way to Crazy’ after all these years

In those bruising early days of The Jesus and Mary Chain when the taciturn Reid brothers stared missiles at their brawling public from behind their indie-perms and shades, you could count on trouble and you could count on it not lasting very long. 

They worked to the stated principle that no band is good enough to play longer than 25 minutes – an aphorism not necessarily true, but true enough that every musician should feel a pang of guilt when they pass that marker. 

The truth was they didn’t have the songs yet. It’s hard to say whether it was the lads’ songwriting that helped them break through, or their reputation for bringing a bad moon with them everywhere they went and the gravel-grizzle of knackered amplifiers that produced the ‘Psychocandy’ sound. But ever they inched away from that sound and maybe it tells of a bit of a discrepancy in the band’s history — while that sound was what drew the fans, it was the songs that mattered most to them. 

They promised that by this age, they’d just be writing Shangri-La’s songs. Well instead we’ve had re-releases, jimmy-rigged albums constructed of previously released solo efforts and now they’ve started flogging live recordings. This live release of ‘Half Way to Crazy’ features the prototypical honeyed keening of Jim Reid and the plaintive growling guitars, without any of the synthesised sound from the ‘Automatic’ LP (the song’s 1989 mothership) that so crossed the ‘Psychocandy’ heads. I wish they were writing Shangri La songs these days, but then again, they sort of always were and have always been keen on people just hearing the songs rather than focusing on the background noise, the squabbling, the violence, the obfuscating production. And being reminded of this cut, you’re reminded of what made them great, that joyous and naive energy musically, while lyrically belying a jaded and switchblade sharp edge — it helps that his voice is still crisp as from concentrate apple juice. Maybe the original Gallagher brothers just can’t stand working with each other long enough to whip up another ‘Damage and Joy’ — shame

Rory Calland

Image: 'Sunset 666' Official Single Cover

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