Those who've followed every move creative core members William and Jim Reid have been making since their last studio album are quick to recognize most of the songs on Damage and Joy from previously released material. Recent interviews with Jim make clear the brothers felt these solo and/or side project songs should have been under the JAMC banner all along, and with this record they now are. The new tracks were recorded with highly regarded producer Youth at his home studio in Spain. He also contributed bass guitar, as “Youth” is the stage name of Martin Glover, founding member bassist of UK industrial rock pioneers Killing Joke.
When the initial advance track “Amputation” was released earlier this year (back on Dec 9, 2016) most long-time fans immediately recognized the song as one of Jim’s previously released solo tracks. After his first (and only) post MaryChain band Freeheat went their separate ways in 2003, he released this track (then titled “Dead End Kids”) as a solo effort in July 2006 on the Transistor record label. The song also turned up again as a live recording on the 2006 Planting Seeds Records Freeheat compilation called “Back On The Water.” Although the song was a fan favorite for those of us starved for anything from either Reid brothers, the recording quality on both the Transistor release and Planting Seeds live track could certainly benefit from a fuller studio production. Hence the inclusion of this and other previously released or demoed tracks on this “new” album.
The new recording certainly benefits from the higher level of care and attention to detail a proper studio can provide. While the original and current version both begin with a ten second eruption of rising white noise, the difference in improved sound quality on the present track is instantly noticeable. The pace has been quickened on the newer version, while the introductory “Ooooooh’s” are still there as well as the shaker percussion. Lyrically this track always hit the mark as Jim’s writing revealed a maturity and honest appraisal on the world around him. “Try to win your interest back, but you ain’t havin’ none of that. We’re just like a ship in a bottle, kissed today but fucked tomorrow - I don’t know, I guess that we are through. Fucked up girls like drugged up guys, but that won’t keep them warm at night. It’s just like a grape in a bottle, it’s wine today but piss tomorrow – I don’t know, I guess that we’re all through." The instrumental breaks are clean and the chord progressions oh-so-MaryChain – the only nit-picky negative one might perceive is the use of a still somewhat thin sounding mechanical percussion track (rather than a real drummer playing real drums), but props for the addition of what sounds like live tambourine over it. When the chorus hook arrives with the repeated mantra “I’m a rock and roll amputation,” you have to wonder why that wasn’t the song title initially, as it makes more sense.
The 4:34 time length of “War On Peace” immediately suggests something more than a traditional three and a half minute pop song. It’s a slow and somber going for most of the way, with William’s signature downward progression strummed chords interspersed with overdubbed guitar licks, reverberated tambourine and ride cymbal percussion. The Jim penned lyrics begin “I was sharp, but now I’m old – give my secrets up like gold. There’s a fire beneath my feet – light’s the longest losing streak.” The next lines has two voices and it sounds like maybe that's William adding a “harmony” (of sorts) to the main vocal. “Love don’t live here anymore – don’t come knockin’ on my door . I just can’t get peace of mind – there’s a peace there I can’t find.”
On the chorus hook that goes “So why would I run? Where would I run to?” the sense of internal conflict is fully recognized.
At this point the drums begin fill in a bit more, provided by touring (and founding Fountains Of Wayne) member Brian Young. All but one track on the album has drumming credited to anyone else. Additionally, a rich twangy lead floats in over top of the two initially established guitar tracks. “Days like these you just can’t kill. Lives like mine you just can’t fill. Blow some money, kill some time. Soak myself in blood red wine. There’s no fever coming on. Love is leaving, dead and gone.” Another level of sonic squall emerges as the harmony vocal returns with the lyrics “Love don’t live here anymore. Don’t come knockin’ on my door.” Back to the hook with the audio field fully flooded. Another classic JAMC staple appears with the “Ah – ah” cadence. It’s at that 3:30 mark when the song suddenly quickens in pace. The percussion goes “motorik” and guitars start chugging full throttle rock. It explodes into a full on rocker as Jim’s “Ah – ah’s” make one more pass through.
The next updated song re-recorded for proper posterity and originally reported as “a sort of bridge building song” (revealed in this 2007 interview done with touring band member Mark Crozer) written by William, “All Things Pass.” At the time called “All Things Must Pass” it was first recorded for inclusion on the 2008 soundtrack to NBC’s popular at the time television show “Heroes.”
This now definitive album version leans heavily on William’s guitar, both with the intro feedback and rich deep-toned licks. Early fears that the percussion track might be relegated to thin drum machine pulses are quickly allayed when the full band charges in. Hearing the ironic and amusingly self-deprecating lyric "I have taken a vow - to prove myself -to find me - I'm regrettin' it now - 'cause I found me!" (highlighted back in 2012 in this feature here) perfectly illustrates the bands ever-present balancing act between hope and despair. The chorus is big and sing-along ready with amped up vocals on “Hey! Look out here it comes. All things must pass -but not too fast.” The quickened pace combined with Brian's relaxed but powerful drumming style gives this cut a particular boost.
The album’s fourth track (and second to be given an advance video release) “Always Sad” is introduced by one of those single note pound down’s the band is famous for (the track “Some Candy Talking” being a prime example). It quickly morphs into a chunky chord mid-tempo rocker closer to something The Rolling Stones would do. “You ain’t like those other girls,” Jim croons. “There’s nothing like you in this world.” The first of multiple duets with female vocalists emerges with the next lines “you ain’t like those other guys,” sung by William Reid’s actual girlfriend Bernadette Denning. Her voice is sweet and pleasing in a way that fits in well enough with the Reid’s already established pattern of using guest female vocalists. Blending well enough with Jim’s voice, the instrumental break following those lines establish this track’s hook and appeal – those dominant single note guitar riffs and rattle tambourine percussion. As choruses go, the Jim and Bernadette dual sung lines “think I’m always sad – think I’m always gonna be sad” is appealing enough, with the added punch line “cause you’re the best I’ve ever had” completing the musical progression. A later set of lyrics seem to foreshadow much of what Jim and William have been stating in interviews. “A million miles between us now – why can’t we just work things out."
There is no “secret” that 5th track "Song For A Secret" serves as a direct descendant to the Hope Sandoval guest vocal duet on “Sometimes Always” (off of 1994’s “Stoned and Dethroned”). Similar in both rhythm, presentation and overall mood, it’s “uniqueness” (or newness if you will) come from the song's details. Once again William’s guitar chords and the accompanying ride cymbal percussion drive the forward momentum, while an inverted guitar melody line adds dramatic punctuation. Jim opens the vocals with the lines “too old to crucify- but too young for suicide.” Getting right to the hook, a distant female vocal joins in for the joyful sentiment “Oh, I’m glad I found you. I’ll wrap myself around you.”
Fuller drumming kicks in for the second verse where guest vocalist (and former Belle and Sebastian member) Isobel Campbell goes solo. “After all the shit that you’ve been through. All I’ve got is time for you. Oh yeah I’m just glad you found me. Just wrap yourself around me.”
The instrumental section here is classic MaryChain, with Williams chords and those punctuating guitar lines further enhanced by their signature sawing-back-and-forth two-note melody. It all comes to a high point halt at the 2 minutes mark. Jim then sings “kiss the feet, of the reason my heart beats. If a kiss could kill maybe this one will – but a kiss can’t kill but maybe this one will.” Isobel returns for a lushly produced harmony vocal with Jim “Well it’s alllllright.” Then Isobel solo again “they don’t know, that the rock and roll’s too slow” before more joined “it’s allllright’s.” The outro is a beautiful cascading vocal overlay that brings to mind the pageantry of “Just Like Honey.”
A nice touch is added with the introductory feedback on Jim’s (at least) 17 old song “The Two Of Us.” Initially making the rounds a mere 2 years after the release of “Munki,” the song got additional attention when a live Freeheat (Jim’s first post-MaryChain band) version of it appeared on the Planting Seeds Records compilation “Back On The Water.” This new version has added keyboards to the mix, as well as stripped-down musical accompaniment on the opening verse. Additional emphasis is placed on Jim’s vocal with a doubling or echo effect that creates a richer texture to it. With the return of Isobel Campbell on the chorus, the initial spirit of lyrics “the two of us are getting high, we don’t need drugs ‘cause we know how to fly” remains intact. Having known this song for so many years in it’s rougher rock band state, the inclusion of single layer keyboards take a bit of getting used to.
Isobel takes her solo turn on that second verse that comes hardwired into this song. Her whispy voice delivers a gentler reading than the full throat belter on the 2003 live at Paradiso, Amsterdam version. Better production emerges on the more defined change section that starts with Jim singing “well I was born the day that I met you.” At which point Isobel counters sweetly “I couldn’t leave you if I tried.” That all culminates with the dual sung “you’re the reason I’m alive.” An unanticipated production quality emerges as Jim’s voice is altered for dramatic effect (as if in a deep echo hallway) “the two of us are getting hiiiiiigh – we don’t need drugs ‘cause we know how to fly.” A brief pause then full band lurches back in for the galloping ride to the finish line.
Having had the original MySpace download version of William Reid’s (then titled) “And Greens” in semi-frequent rotation since 2008 has always been a real “insider” dedicated-fan pleasure. Being one of the more emotionally satisfying post-JAMC songs gave hope that someday this would be recorded and released properly. Its inclusion now on this long-awaited official album sees that wish achieved.
This heretofore forever definitive version - now titled "Los Feliz (Blues and Greens)" maintains that magical descending chord progression, but dispenses with the static note counter pattern included on the original. As with most of the tracks on this latest album (and most MaryChain albums) reverberated tambourine jingles are prominent, especially when matched to acoustic guitars. The basic structure appears to be additionally supported by majestic piano chords. Jim’s voice now graces the lyrics (with what possibly sounds like William’s blended in) that goes “Girl you taste like coffee, and you feel like rain. I’m not coffee I’m not the hot rain, I’m like the dust on the window pane. Down on the sunset strip train. French fries and lying eyes.” The devil is in deciphering this next line which may be “We got the something stacked up to the canteen” - well at least that was what the original sounded like. It seems like Jim may have changed the lyric there to start with “somebody saw me get you knocked down” – yes – without the benefit of an official lyric sheet – we are left to our own ears to make sense if it. A consensus of opinion is that the concluding line “is that why they call you, lady vain,” is most-likely correct.
While the electronic keyboard that was dominant in the original is now gone, William adds some fuzzy guitar to the buildup and chorus. Most JAMC fans know William moved to California in the early 2000’s, so his sentimental ode to his adopted residential home has always had an appeal to those of US born. There is no negative in saying “God Bless America” – while were at it – God Bless Us All Everywhere. However, the “punch line” (if you will) that follows leaves open the ever-present MaryChain doubt with the line “Wishing they were dead, instead.”
Keyboards do figure again in the overall wall-of-sound, as synth pads fill in sonic space as well as William’s rough-buzz electric guitar. The original bass counter melody keyboard line does eventually reappears in the epic final chorus. Kudos once again to Brian for his easy going, relaxed drum style. It’s clear to see why they keep him in the band as he appears to possess the perfect balance of live drummer and studio recording artist - knowing just when to open up and when to lay back.
One of the two songs not produced by Youth but by “the band” (with help from a number of engineers and a “pre-production” credit given), “Mood Rider” (and the other “Simian Split”) appear to have been already recorded for a William Reid "pop" solo album (as opposed to his more bizarre and out-there Lazycame stuff) shortly before the reunion. With that knowledge, its slightly rougher sound is understandable. A driving full band chugger, we are treated to yet-another unique and unmistakably Reid guitar hook melody.
William vocal “I bet I’m gonna be fine. I got enough stored food and wine. I think I'm gonna be fine - happy all the time. I think I'll drift like a ship - I fink I'll do it on a trip [all William aficionados know he’ll frequently says “fink” instead of “think”] Kill everybody who's hip - shooting from the lip.”
Chugging into a slithering chorus that goes “Mooood Rider – hey mood driver – alone.” The guitars here are particularly lively sounding with that classic William semi-hollowbody electric distorting in on itself. Similar to the way it sounds on the track “degenerate” off of their previous studio album “Munki.” The drumming is a bit more heavy-handed here as well. The only track on the album credited to another drummer besides Brian, Chris Phillips is a founding member of swing-rock band Squirrel Nut Zippers. Like Brian he appears to be available for work on an as-needed basis, as he spent two years playing with the Dickies, as well as tracking these songs with William.
More lyrics: “I think I’m turning to dust. Love is turning to luuuust. I fink I’m turning to dust – only as I must” (concise commentary human mortality). Nice “ooooh, ooooh, ooh-ooh” end out, especially when it gets paired against a harmonizing guitar line.
A slow droney feedback intro deceptively obfuscates what quickly reveals a perky, almost Cure-like melody on the bizarrely titled “Presidici (Et Chapaquiditch).” “If anyone can a Kennedy can. If any clan can a Kennedy can. Nobody knows just what a Romany knows – no one knows just what a roman knows.” While songs historically have had a long established precedent of often featuring rhyming words that don’t necessarily connect into any real narrative, these lyrics here seem particularly silly. As it continues with “and a messed up head is always better than none – chicken fried rice is a bad dim sum” the impression left is that these seem like simple rhyming placeholders. Is it all just throwaway word play? Lumbering on with “and the son of the law he was a helluva guy, hippie God and a famous liberal guy” at least gives the sense this may actually be referencing something or someone.
More appealing is the bridge where William and Jim sing together: ”behind black eyes – my mind is fine” – as well as a chorus of sorts that Jim sings solo again – “If you can’t love – yourself – it’s baaaa-aaa-aad for your health.” Immediately lurching into the next verse (literally no break at all) “I was made in deep space and I was raised on the moon – fell to earth and I was born in June.” Being that William was born in October and Jim in December, this is clearly a reference to their mother’s first name. Further autobiographical references emerge with the line “and we grew up with the Spiders and the Beatles from Mars, tiger feet and the T-Rex cars.” However the stanza “and a gold-capped tooth is always misunderstood [what?] “Christopher Walken's in a terrible mood.” Can’t help but chuckle (in a cringe-worthy way) at the Walken reference. It’s sewn up nicely with the universally relatable line “and I broke some hearts I made along the way, but my hearts broken every brand new day.”
Once again a brief slow rising feedback introduces Jim’s previously released Freeheat track “Get On Home.” Earlier studio and live versions (both included on the Planting Seeds compilation) did not have that, leaving one to wonder if these are William’s or current producer Youth’s idea. Although the overall recording may sound better, the guitars actually sound more tame here, especially on the verses. Also kept were the thin rinky-tinky percussion that would have been better served with real drums. Youthful “rock star” male bravado is fully on display with the “pistol” verse, but the delivery is as “blues” as any blues song ever was.
When the expected guitar “squall” kicks in, it is once again somewhat disappointing as it appears modern studio techniques have cleaned it all up a bit too much. New listeners hearing this version only for the first time might not feel the same way, but those who’ve been living with this song for over a decade will surely notice. True, the vocals sound better with enhanced layering on the “blow up girl” verse, but pop culture references to aged mediums may confuse more than enlighten. Overall the track is salvaged by a bigger guitar blowout at the end, leading one to believe the live environment is where this one could surely flourish.
It would be sufficed to say that the new version of “Facing Up To The Facts” is actually a near total re-write. The entire groove and most of the lyrics are drastically different than the live version on Freeheat’s “Back On The Water.” Where that original was a static stomp, this new track shares a similar groove to much revered b-side “Sidewalking.” Gone are the lyrics “I can’t eat I can’t drink I can’t think I can’t talk I can’t laugh I can’t run I can’t hide I can’t fuck I can’t piss I can’t love I can’t move I can’t dream I can’t fuck.” In their place comes less desperate, but still negative (the power of negative thinking?) ruminations that call back previous JAMC references. “I hate my lover and she hates me, I don’t know what I’m supposed to be” pulling directly from another immortalized b-side “Kill Surf City.” It’s interesting to hear how the chorus remains completely intact however, with improved studio sound quality.
The back end returns to the original composition with that cry out “you know there’s no safety net, you know this is all we get, you know -- I can’t take no more.” Guitars are bigger here (thank goodness) and it seems like William and Brian’s drumming are particularly locked in with the rhythmic accents. The “Don’t worry be happy” coda also survives the updated blend, making for the kind of hybrid raunchy-pop track JAMC have produced their entire career.
One of the only two actually completely new songs, “Simian Split” opens with a peculiar collage of quick-paced pieced together audio clips that would make Beatles producer George Martin proud. Hyperactive drum rolls and skronky saxophone honks make up the bulk of it. The already controversial Kurt Cobain references may presently be brushed off as “silly, playful, fiction,” in interviews - but it is not out of the realm of possibilities that William did in fact get drugs from Courtney and that Frances Bean at one time allowed him entry somewhere (their home?) “with a big, wide, goofy grin.”
The chorus rocks pretty well, but the breaks are odd little asides emphasizing sparse synth waves. No drummers credit on this one? Is William banging out those snare shots and occasional tom thumps? Well, it’s as good as anything Gillespie or Moore could have done. Most amusing lyric: “Pet jail is life in a band.”
“Black And Blues” hearkens back to the smoother acoustic guitar and light drumming with tambourine hits enhancement that was so prominent on much of 1994’s “Stoned and Dethroned.” Jim’s opening vocal “I don’t have nuthin’ to give – but if I could I’d give my heart’s beat” recaptures the wide open western highway imagery of that aforementioned album.
Here is where the much publicized guest vocals of Sky Ferreira appears on the hook lines “but my mind and heart breaks – yeah it’s just a bitch” –emphatic downbeat stroke in-between – “yeah it’s just a bitch.” The media-hype savvy Sky takes her first solo turn on the lines “you know we’re livin’ in sick. Guess the love is where you find it.” Jim back in “but my mind and heaaaart breaks.” The two voices harmonize best together on the lyrics “we could leave this world behind and die and die in the morning.”
An unexpected change occurs at the 1:35 mark where low note guitars bend downward and distort against a double time beat. “We could leave this world forever” Jim sings. “We could live this world behind” Sky croons. It’s like Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra have returned from Jackson (after “messing around”) and have launched a new relationship. Of course a round of “yeah it’s just a bitch” with dueling “Ah, ah, ah’s” and “Bah, bah, bah’s” take you home in sing-along style.
Final track “Can’t Stop The Rock” is presented as a duet with Sister Vanilla (initially included on a 2005 Japanese CD and subsequent 2007 (UK/UK) release “Little Pop Rock”). Jim has also previously released it on a CD/7” single with “Song For A Secret” in 2005. Although pleasant enough, it’s understandable why this is the 14th and dead last track on the album. While William’s contributions to this appear to be simple plinky descending guitar lines, the added juice of Jim’s fully reverberated vocal end out more than satisfies. Including Jim’s notoriously frequent calls to “STOP” a song during live shows (when they’ve begun poorly or have veered too far off course for him to find a way back in) at the very end is clever indeed.
The new album, Damage And Joy, is out now.
Get it here:
Signed album bundles also available here:
Additional Jesus And Mary Chain features on this site can be found here:
- - -
- - -
- - -
- - -
* * * * *
Many a moon has past since then, and Murray has a band now called The Sux Pastels (pun fully intended).
A warning siren and ominous distant explosion introduce lead track “Big Red Button” before slashing guitars and throttling rhythm section begin banging out an aggressive progression. With vocal declarations that state “I don’t care anymore, I’m gonna lock my door, I wanna push the big red button,” the spirit here is late 70’s punk with a nod to The Ramones “I Wanna Be Sedated.” The sound quality and overall production is quite good, as rip-shred guitar lines come properly balanced over locked-tight bass and drums punchy rhythm accents. Vocal delivery and tonal quality lean closer to the UK’s Clash, rather than the legends from Queens, New York. Additionally, the guitar work here is more riff driven and less dependent on fast strumming. What you might as well be listening to when you are ready to press that elusive “end of the world” button.
The emphatic punk style of anthem “Filthy Rich” seems molded from the vitriolic throw-down between two of the most influential John’s of their era – Lydon and Thunders. When Mr. Rotten unloaded his contempt for the NYC Max’s Kansas City rock scene (specifically targeting the NY Dolls) in 1977, Thunders responded the following year with his slap back “London Boys.” While this current track may not share a lyrical bond, the slashing guitar style seems right out of the Thunders/Steve Jones playbook. The tandem vocals and do-wop influenced “whoa-ahs” draw further comparison to that era’s vocal style, especially as far as the Dolls are concerned. The chorus section that goes “no not tomorrow – no never today – did we ever have it – did we ever lose it – you don’t even need it – ‘cause you’re filthy rich,” becomes the essential sing-along hook. In the end “it’s all dirty money.”
Feeling closer to traditional rock than the all-out punk of the previous tracks, “Tastes Like Sugar” echoes elements of the 80’s. The guitar tone and chugging downward progression with matching four-on-the-floor percussion thump reflects the cleaner sound elements of that musical period. There are enough rawer elements via snare drum bursts and roaming bass guitar notes, helping to avoid the sterility of over-produced slickness. The essential lyrical refrain of “what I like is not what I like – night is day and day is night – sold your soul – you’ve lost control – dark desires they won’t let go - the taste – it never fades – it tastes like sugar” implies addictions sweet lure, but ultimate downward spiral.
Additional information and more tracks from this band can be found at their Reverbnation page here:
* * * * *
A recent addition to the Moon Sounds Records family is the ambient electronic duo Lunar Twin. Their currently released six track digital album "Night Tides" delivers an engaging mix of muted, up-close vocals, unconventional keyboard textures and world music beats. Recorded at Ohia Studios in Wailea, Hawaii and Desert Heat in Salt Lake City, the band consists of multi-instrumentalist Christopher Murphy and vocalist Bryce Boudreau.
The somber mood synth pads and forward motion marimba percussion of opening track “Waves” sets a stylistic tone that reoccurs throughout the records six tracks. With deep rough-edged vocals that showcase an intimate lyrical writing style, comparisons to veteran cult favorite Mark Lanegan would not be out of the question. “Blood Moon” blends elements of flamenco style guitar, slow groove trip-hop percussion, off-kilter synth bleeps and violins to a brooding vocal performance. A pulsating synth pulse and mid-tempo trap drums beat provides the foundation “Corel Sea” is built on. That underlying tension creates room for vocals delivered with more force than initial two tracks. Syncopated bass synths and looser live-in-the-studio drumming propel the sonic forces on “Prayers Of Smoke.” While final cut title track “Night Tides” float on waves of synths and deep vocals that ebb and flow like vast ocean itself.
Night Tides is available via digital download here, where a limited edition cassette can also be ordered.
* * * * *