Contrary to what you may have heard, I don’t hate pop music. But I also don’t believe that catchy, accessible music has to pander to be so. Enter The Jesus and Mary Chain, a group of Scots who took their cue from grinding German industrial music and altered it with bubblegum and bone saws. Hardly missing New Wave, TJ&MC took feedback to the level of art with 1985’s Psychocandy, a roiling gradation of static, melody, and whine reduced to bite-sized chunks of electric joy wrapped in melancholy.
“Just Like Honey” eases in with a Shangri-Las-on-Valium drumbeat building towards glory before abruptly fading. The drone and iron of “The Living End” is the true harbinger of The Jesus and Mary Chain’s philosophy– steady, driving rhythm built on layer upon layer of distortion, feedback, and fuzz. “Taste The Floor” evokes The Stooges and The Ramones but with a detachment that would translate into a staple of British “shoegazing” rock n’ roll and a piece of prophecy for the next era of power pop a decade later.
For me “In A Hole” and the VU-ish “Taste of Cindy” evoke the angst of the 1980s I was too young to exhibit but old enough to aspire to. As the album vacillates between Beach Boys bounce and dissonance, “You Trip Me Up” attacks from multiple angles with a commitment to high frequency before a sweet segue from “Something’s Wrong” sugar rushes into a grand finale that aims to maim with “It’s So Hard”.
Internal band fighting and external drama drove as much as perpetually threatened to derail The Jesus and Mary Chain while subsequent albums would trade men for machine and rely more on interpretation than innovation. I still love ‘em though, and accidental or intentional, the mutant pop ideology of Psychocandy perseveres.