The Jesus and Mary Chain: Glasgow Eyes

Next year will mark the fortieth anniversary of Psychocandy, the groundbreaking, distortion-laden debut full-length from Scottish noise pop darlings, and progenitors of shoegaze, The Jesus and Mary Chain. For a band that’s been around as long as JAMC, they’ve got a relatively small discography, releasing only six albums between the years 1985 and 1999 when the band split up. The group’s latest studio album, Glasgow Eyes, is their eighth overall and second since their reunion in 2007. As one might imagine, for hardcore fans of Jim and William Reid, the brothers who founded The Jesus and Mary Chain and carry the distinction of being the project’s only consistent members, there’s a lot of anticipation leading up to the release of new music.

Glasgow Eyes begins with wildly unfocused squelching electronics, almost as if to represent a machine being reactivated after years of inactivity. Just before the thirty second mark, driving drums join singer Jim Reid as he delivers lyrics like, “I’m addicted to love, so we can fuck on the table.” Soul singers back Reid up during the second bridge as he hits each line hard, his gritty voice pushing through as he repeats, “My venal heart is filled with pain, my venal heartbeat, filled with pain.” Then, as if the machine is losing energy, the song slows and ends.

Many of the JAMC’s early trippy, collage-like music videos were sprinkled with quick flashes of distinctly American iconography, like revolvers, the Coca-Cola logo, and Old Glory’s stars and bars. It’s notable that the colors used on Glasgow Eyes’ cover are red, white, and blue. The Reid brothers obviously still harbor a fascination for the U.S., and this is made clear with the song “American Born”. Here, guitarist William Reid pounds through on a distorted guitar over a bed of synthpop as brother Jim sounds strained as he sings, “I’m American born.” Glasgow Eyes’ first single, “jamcod”, may be the closest the band’s sound resembles anything from their Automatic and Honey’s Dead albums. It’s a better than average moment that is quickly spoiled by the quirky “Discotheque” and the limp “Pure Poor” that follow it.

Side B’s opener, “The Eagles and The Beatles”, gives some hope thing will improve as Jim Reid sings about rock and rollers from the past over a groove that appropriately mimics Joan Jett and the Blackhearts’ “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll.” The song makes for a decent moment, but some of the lyrics are a bit confusing: “I’ve been rolling with the Stones, Mick and Keith and Brian Jones, Bill and Charlie have gone home.” Wait, Bill and Charlie have gone home? Bill Wyman is still alive. Brian Jones and Charlie Watts are the Stones who passed. Am I missing something? The dirgy “Chemical Animal” comes across as something from Darklands-era JAMC while “Second of June” is brighter and reminiscent of “Sometimes Always” from the band’s country-inspired Stoned & Dethroned.

Glasgow Eyes is concluded with the six-plus-minute “Hey Lou Reid”. While the title is an obvious nod to Lou Reed, the song itself begins as an effective JAMC take on The Velvet Underground’s “Sister Ray”. Halfway in, things slow down and the brothers draw out something more akin to VU’s “New Age”. There’s enough good material on Glasgow Eyes to satisfy longtime Jesus and Mary Chain fans, though most would probably agree there’s not nearly enough of the dissonant, feedbacky-yet-emotive guitar work of the band’s eighties and nineties releases. Still, the new album from The Jesus and Mary Chain does have some strong moments that reveal themselves upon repeated listens.

Rating: 7.0/10

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