Stuck on psychocandy

Updated: 2012-05-11 09:36

By Chen Nan (China Daily)

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Stuck on psychocandy

The Jesus and Mary Chain explored the essence of rock and roll with its first album, Psychocandy, in 1985.

Decades later, the British band will provide more of the same on the second day of the China Music Valley International Music Festival in Beijing.

When the band performed its first gig since 1998, at 2007's Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, and was joined by Scarlett Johansson for a performance of Just Like Honey, they asked the crowd, "Happy we're back?"

The answer was in the affirmative, and they appear to have timed their reunion well.

In the mid-'80s, The Jesus and Mary Chain, led by brothers William and Jim Reid, was dubbed "the next big thing".

They went on to perform shows with the singer showing his back to the audience and band members getting arrested for violence and drugs.

Though the band enjoyed only modest commercial success, they were influential. In 1998, they split due to the tension between the two brothers. Jim, the lead singer, said in a 2006 interview that "after each tour, we wanted to kill each other. And after the final tour, we tried".

"It feels like a dream going back in time and reliving The Jesus and Mary Chain story," lead singer Jim tells China Daily, referring to their 2007 comeback. "But then, I was a little worried that my life would return to chaos."

The chaos began in East Kilbride, near Glasgow, where the Reid brothers grew up in the late '70s. The brothers listened to The Beatles and glam rock like Slade and T. Rex. They were into punk in 1977, Jim recalls.

"We heard the Sex Pistols and all that, and we wanted to be in a punk band," he says. They talked about forming a band for nearly five years. "In the early '80s, we had seen that there was a need for a band like The Jesus and Mary Chain because there weren't any guitar bands. Everybody was making electronic pop music," he says.

William got the name from reading a box of oats. Then they started working on making their dreams come true, though they could barely play guitar.

Their first single, 1984's Upside Down, went to the top of the British independent charts and won respect from fans and critics. The second album, however, 1987's Darklands, disappointed fans expecting a repeat.

"We were very much aware of the feedback that Psychocandy became famous for, so we did everything possible to get rid of it," he says.

Talking about their old albums, Jim says every album just reflects who they were back then.

"I don't listen to the old albums anymore. It's like looking at old photographs of yourself," Jim says. "We've changed, but the music of each album didn't."

They also like drifting among styles, even challenging the audiences. Their fourth album, 1992's Honey's Dead, was produced in their own recording studio, which they called "the drugstore". The themes of sex, drugs and death resulted in radio bans.

They didn't care, though. An endless string of gigs to celebrate the release of the album followed throughout the rest of 1992, which began with the British Rollercoaster tour supported by My Bloody Valentine and Blur.

"We only give audiences two choices: They can love us or hate us. There's nothing in between, and that's OK," Jim says. In 1998, the brothers joined forces with guitarist Ben Lurie and created Munki, which returned to the electronic sound. The album was the band's least successful commercially and it broke up after it's release.

Jim insists: "The band ended just at the right time."

The two brothers moved on, and Jim claimed not to miss the band. But he says they have slowed down and are more peaceful.

"Our music maybe comes from the past but will always belong to the present."

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