The Jesus and Mary Chain, Darklands, 1987, Blanco Y Negro
1. Darklands 2. Deep One Perfect Morning 3. Happy When it Rains 4. Down on Me 5. Nine Million Rainy Days 6. April Skies 7. Fall 8. Cherry Came Too 9. On the Wall 10. About You
The Jesus and Mary Chain were formed in 1983 by brothers Jim and William Reid (who share vocals and guitar parts) in East KIlbride, Scotland. They apparently picked the name after reading it on the back of a cereal packet. Their early gigs were short, drug fueled affairs and the press exaggerated the levels of violence at them leading to the band being dubbed “the new Sex Pistols” which to me seems to be a woefully inaccurate moniker. Although its true that there was some violence at their gigs and that this attracted some fans who were there to fight rather than to enjoy the music, it would be a stretch to truly compare this band to the original punks.
Darklands was their second album, made by just the brothers and a drum machine after drummer Bobby Gillespie left to focus on his work with Primal Scream. It reached number 5 in the UK chart the band’s highest ever album chart position.
Title track Darklands which was the album’s final single release is a Velvet Underground-esque indie track only with seemingly endless “do-do-do-ing” at the end. Deep One Perfect Morning starts like a dirge with a vocal that’s a challenge to hear, but slowly improves with a crescendo of guitars. The great guitar work continues on Happy When it Rains the obvious second single release choice is upbeat and just the right mix of pop and indie. Down on Me though lyrically introverted, is tight, fast and has a touch of The Clash about it. It’s the best track so far. Unfortunately, Nine Million Rainy Days is nothing like it’s predecessor - it’s slow and ponderous, an impressive feat considering how much it owes to Sympathy for the Devil. April Skies the first single release from the album is a perfectly polished slice of indie goodness. It’s obvious that the singles on this album got a bit more love than the other songs. Fall is the nearest thing to hard rock on the album. It’s definitely one to dance to. Cherry Came Too is a forgetable sex song that feels like its trying too hard to be edgy, you can ear a Beach Boys influence on it though. The final two tracks are both dark and brooding and slow.
The album starts well but seems to fade away at the end. The later songs are just too slow and ponderous for my taste. It’s a shame since the first half of the album is strong and the guitar work is intricate and well blended with the machine made music. The three singles and Down With Me stand out from the other six tracks as songs that you would want to hear again and again. This 40-60 split makes the album feel lacklustre to me, and despite the depressing lyrical theme that runs so clearly through every track, the whole feels too disjointed to be a really great album. The quality of the album doesn’t quite stand up to the band’s cool image.
Darklands has been hailed as brilliant in many quarters including by fans and music journalists, so I’m clearly missing something and the wider work of The Jesus and Mary Chain has influenced a relatively diverse set of bands including; Blur, My Bloody Valentine, Nine Inch Nails, The Horrors, Dinosaur Jr. I’m glad I gave it a listen, but I don’t think I’ll be back for more.