Do you remember that scene from Harry Potter where Voldemort’s face pops out of a book in the restricted section, wailing in Harry’s little unassuming face? Imagine Voldemort’s scream but 100 times louder, non-stop for well over an hour. Safe to say I felt like a goldfish that had been plunged into a tank of Scottish shoegaze.
Welcome back The Jesus and Mary Chain: goodbye adequate hearing. The first set was a shoegaze continuum that began with songs of the unfortunate stadium rock persuasion. This was a somewhat disappointing first impression given the nature of their performance history; their 1985 gig at Electric Ballroom ended in a full blown riot resulting in the destruction of the venue’s lighting rig.
But now, 30 years later, the gig serves as a reminder of the bittersweet transience of youth. I couldn’t help but notice the audience encompassed subtle variations of the middle-aged rocker archetype seeking to negate an unfinished battle with the band.
It is the most Scottish thing I’ve ever been to, with the crowd shouting affectionate insults to each in the between each song whilst moshing in a kind of solidarity. The presence of the dome’s security seemed to symbolize even more the band’s violent past, when the riots preceded their music altogether.
However, there is much to be said on the music itself. Songs like ‘Reverence’ have an overt Iggy Pop influence and it is, perhaps, too derivative of ‘I wanna be your dog’. The soft cymbal crash at the end of every bar made The Jesus and Mary Chain sound like a perverse 60s girl group. The drumming ‘Just Like Honey’ resembles the percussive style of The Shangri Las for instance. The slow and steady 60s rhythms suddenly proliferated into the My Bloody Valentine threshold of the shoegaze spectrum by the end of the fist set.
The excruciating white noise from William Reid’s feedback continued into the second set: Psychocandy in its entirety. The word ‘psycho’ is there for a reason: Reid’s guitar sounded like wound being reopened continuously. The drumming became more machine-like, perhaps taking influence from earlier post-punk bands like Joy Division. Jim Reid’s voice is what prevented the overbearing feedback and monotonous drumming from turning into nonsensical chaos.
It’s like a fine thread that weaves the painful sounds together into something pleasant and endearing. The soft, steady execution and unvaried vocal range suggested Reid was totally unphased by the chaotic moshers in the front row. The band’s mysticism and removal from the action increased as they dissolved into the copious dry ice smog. Someone was certainly feeling generous with the dry ice that day.
The Jesus and Mary Chain no doubt deserve greater exposure to a younger audience.
Their continued provocativeness sets the bar high for others aiming to create a sound that stands above the current wave of mundane shoegaze revival groups.
Photo Credit: Andy Von Pip