While I wouldn’t necessarily describe myself as a massive fan of UK post-punk, I listened to, and liked quite a bit of it throughout the late ‘80s and early-to-mid ‘90s, none more so than Scotland’s The Jesus And Mary Chain. I was exposed to them by friends on such albums as Psychocandy, Darklands, and Automatic, even seeing them live WAY back In 1992 in Denver, Colorado at the second edition of Lollapalooza. I even dug The Pixies cover of Head On, that helped expose The Jesus And Mary Chain to a larger audience. Their 1998 album Munki, released on Sub Pop was in heavy rotation during my Seattle days, as I’ve always enjoyed the band’s trippy, poppy, wall-of-distortion rock sound and nihilistic attitude.
I was mildly surprised to see their new live album, Sunset 666, show up in the promo pool so jumped on the opportunity to revisit a band that I’ve always dug, if not being a passionate, follow-every-move, fan.
Sunset 666 captures The Jesus And Mary Chain, post-2017-reformation, opening for Nine Inch Nails in 2018 at The Hollywood Palladium. The tables got turned, as when NIN were first breaking, they opened for The Jeus And Mary Chain and Trent Reznor returned the favor taking the Scottish legends out on tour over a few decades later. Evidently, the sound engineer, initially unbeknownst to the band, recorded them live off the mixing board, and wound up capturing a stunning set, that the band thought highly enough of to release as a career-spanning live album.
Founding members, The Reid brothers, Jim and Willliam, both on guitar and vocals, sound fantastic, if certainly more subdued than their late ‘80s and early ‘90s heyday, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. An early highlight of this live album is the appearance on vocals of fellow Scot Isobel Campell, who sings Hope Sandoval’s (co-vocalist of Mazzy Star, and William Reid’s ex-girlfriend) part on Sometimes Always, and, as always, her voice sounds absolutely fantastic. Campell also graces Black And Blues off The Jesus And Mary Chain’s 2017 reunion album, Damage And Joy with her smooth-as-honey voice. Speaking of Damage And Joy, Amputation off said album sounds amazing, and is as fuzzed-up, yet also melodic, as one could possibly want.
The Reid brothers put on a vivid display of their ability to effortlessly blend distorted, fuzzed-up rock and roll riffage with an uncanny sense of melody…
Other album highlights for this reviewer are The Living End off Psychocandy, performed a little fuzzier, and just a little faster than the original and the results are pure fun, a statement of driving, melodic, rock and roll abandon. Cracking Up off Munki possesses one of the most earworm riffs of the ‘90s, and both Teenage Lust, and Reverence, off 1992s Honey’s Dead are clinics in balancing fuzzed-up, distorted guitar histrionics with impossibly melodious vocal stylings. Reverence sounds magnificent with the fuzz emanating from the speakers, complete with a nod to The Stooges I Wanna Be Your Dog, when paired with the lyrics, such as ‘I wanna die like Jesus Christ’ and ‘I wanna die just like JFK’ is pure rock and roll nihilism.
1989s Automatic, arguably The Jesus And Mary Chain’s best, as well as their breakthrough, album, is featured prominently, in particular of what would be side ‘D’ on the vinyl version, with Between Planets and Halfway To Crazy sounding terrific in a live setting, but it’s Blues From A Gun that completely steals this suite of songs, as once again The Reid brothers put on a vivid display of their ability to effortlessly blend distorted, fuzzed-up rock and roll riffage with an uncanny sense of melody that few bands have been able to achieve.
It’s appropriate that Sunset 666 is being released on Fuzz Club Records as one would be hard pressed to find a band as capable of delivering killer, rock and roll riffs, utterly drenched in fuzz and distortion, yet coupled with a captivating, tuneful vocal delivery, as The Jesus And Mary Chain. I thoroughly enjoyed Sunset 666 as it gave me a chance to revisit a band that I’ve always loved, but, for whatever reason, don’t listen to very often. Sure, there’s ‘80s and ‘90s nostalgia involved, but taking that out of the equation, one simply cannot go wrong with The Jesus And Mary Chain’s particular brand of rock and roll, and, despite all the nihilism and hard living, it’s great to see The Reid brothers still delivering the goods all these decades later.
Scribed by: Martin Williams