Published Mar 22, 2017Nineteen years after they last released their last album, Scottish indie legends the Jesus and Mary Chain have finally returned with their long-overdue seventh full-length. Originally teased when brothers Jim and William Reid reunited back in 2007, Damage and Joy was bordering on a Chinese Democracy-like absurdity. But it's finally here and, well, it's what we should have expected.
The Mary Chain's final album, 1998's Munki, was an odd collection of (too many) songs split down the middle — one half written by Jim, the other by William — that was fragmented and misguided. Damage and Joy sounds like an extension of Munki, but in hiring esteemed veteran Youth (Martin Glover) as producer, you can sense they were looking to regain the focus and the chemistry they had previously lost.
There are plenty of reasons to be excited about this album. "Facing Up to the Facts," for instance, is classic JAMC: loud, noisy guitars dominate the mix, while Jim casually drops a crowd-pleasing truth bomb in the line, "I hate my brother and he hates me." Single "Always Sad," a duet between Jim and William's girlfriend, Bernadette Denning, is a wonderful blend of sunny harmonies and morose sentiments — the band's calling card. And the Sky Ferreira-assisted "Black and Blues," originally released as a demo, is now fully formed and sounds like a throwback to Stoned and Dethroned.
There are also reasons why some JAMC fans should be wary. A handful of the songs on Damage and Joy have previously seen a release via Jim Reid's other projects. Some of them, like "Amputation" (formerly "Dead End Kids") and the Farfisa-driven "The Two of Us" (featuring Isobel Campbell) are cut so deeply from the Mary Chain cloth, it would be a crime not to include them. But "All Things Pass," their first post-reunion track, originally and inexplicably released in 2008 on the Heroes soundtrack, has been re-recorded for the album, when really, it didn't need to be included. At 14 tracks, the album feels unnecessarily excessive.
Also, despite having ten years to work with, there are some off-putting lyrical missteps that are just embarrassing. "Simian Split" brags of how William "killed Kurt Cobain" and "put the shot right through his brain," but it comes off like a dark inside joke that should've been kept private. "Mood Rider," on the other hand, is just downright lazy, from the plodding power chords to the nursery school rhyming of "lust," "must" and "dust."
The best way to enjoy Damage and Joy is to leave their past out of it. Psychocandy was 32 years ago, and the Reids are now pushing 60. The fact that they've come back at all is a remarkable thing. But doing so with an album that lives up to expectations is all we could have asked from the Reids. (ADA/Warner)