The Jesus and Mary Chain’s debut album is one that I’ve been a fan of since the very start of the 2000s. I was 16 for most of 1999, and for anyone that wasn’t around, the last three months seemed to be jam-packed with more “Top 100 XYZ of the 20th Century” than you could shake a stick at. Around early December, I had a magazine summarising a significant public vote on the music of the past 1000 years called Music of The Millennium. A useful enough framework for a sixteen-year-old to understand some of the critical and popular darlings of the previous 50 years, really with quite a lot of Robbie Williams thrown in. By the end of the year, even with the TV show and double CD that accompanied MoM. With the best of the 1990s on VH1 and MTV and so on, I’d turned my attention to another list.
With the walkman on my radio preset to either BBC Radio Five Live or Virgin Radio and access to VH1 on Telewest cable in my room, I had some idea of the cannon. The cannon influenced my first trips to HMV and Our Price some of the albums at the top of the list I was aware of through big famous songs, recency or I’d already owned or borrowed the albums.
The Jesus and Mary Chain’s Psychocandy was the highest placed album on the list I’d never heard a note of - when you only have slow dial-up internet, that’s a fascinating place to be.
In the entry on Paul’s Boutique, I touched on how the language of music critics acted as a gatekeeper but only until MP3s and Napster started to become YouTube and streaming as the 2000s became the 2010s. I can now understand what is meant by the sentence “Psychocandy sounds like Phil Spector s0domising Brian Wilson in a sandpit”, even if I can no longer remember where I read it.
After thirteen tracks and 35 minutes of music, Psychocandy ends with “It’s So Hard”. It is the only song on the album sung by William Reid, and while he would go on to up his quotient to three songs on JAMC next album, Darklands, that is really the only jumping-off point we see from the band in future work. Compared to the fuzzy, thin and reedy (Reidy?) sound of treble meters going into the red, as much of the album, this song is not a template for the more polished work on their less brash, softer and nowhere near as abrasive second album. While a lot the shoegaze that goes after it, even some of their own material on this record, can be said to come to the listener’s ears in waves - people often think of bodies of water. This track, I think more of the waves you experience during a headache.
Along with the screeching guitars and infant Bobby Gillespie standing up behind a set of toy drums, we have a song that seems to have taken onboard some views on love and s3x, which are very much of the “Yes, I have a girlfriend, but she goes to a different school” variety. The references all sound like second-hand knowledge of bedroom activities. Ironically, for a song that is a minor stepping stone on the path from mid-Eighties indie to Shoegazing, I can imagine it being delivered with eyes fixed to the floor.
Not because William Reid is looking at guitar pedals, but because he is embarrassed to meet our gaze.
As there is over an hour of featured songs on the newsletter now, I’ve caved to requests and made a playlist which I will update as I go.