“Do you remember the JAMC?”
Who could forget those immortal lyrics sung so eloquently by Death Cab’s Ben Gibbard on their song “We Looked like Giants?” Ben, like many of us who grew up JAMC fans, knew the importance of this band born from Glasgow, Scotland, whose feedback fury and three minute love pop symphonies shook our world from the mid-’80s and on.
Some of you may have first heard the name Jesus and Mary Chain in the film High Fidelity when Jack Black’s snobby record store clerk Barry scolds a customer for not owning any JAMC albums. “They always seemed really great is what they really seemed, they picked up where your precious Echo (& the Bunnymen) left off…”
In all reality, the JAMC were created by the brothers Jim and William Reid because, “…we couldn’t find records that we liked to buy.” It reminds me of something pompous I used to say to too many ex-girlfriends: the reason I couldn’t find any good books to read was because I haven’t written any yet. Unlike me, JAMC put their foot to the distortion pedal and created a band with a sound both Reid brothers desired.
Unlike the way out cacophony of the noisy resilience of Creation labelmates My Bloody Valentine, JAMC didn’t just blow the guitar amps to make sound crafted songs. The brothers Reid incorporated, “the pop sensibilities of The Shangri-Las with the production values of (Nick Cave’s) The Birthday Party…and that’s us…psycho and candy two extremes on the same record.” Mix in a little surf guitar inspiration and you have the JAMC sound in full effect.
The Power of Negative Thinking is not a greatest hits collection. These 82 songs are b-sides, covers, alterative versions and unreleased songs make up the essence of the sound the Brothers Reid had in mind when they first formed JAMC. I’ve said it before and I’ll state it again, you can tell the greatness of a band by the quality of their b-sides. You can trace the evolution from the Joy Division inspired darkness of the never before heard demo “Up Too High,” acoustic versions of “You Trip Me Up” through blistering covers like Prince’s “Alphabet Street.” You will also hear one of their last songs created as a duo, “Easy Life, Easy Love” that preceded their much publicized spilt on stage at the House of Blues in L.A. There are hints of the up and coming dissolution of the band in the lyrics.
“Goodbye to fame and goodbye to Jane,
Goodbye to yesterday.
I’ve been around, I hit the ground,
There was a price to pay.”
Even before their eventual demise, The Jesus and Mary Chain crafted pop songs were stoic and romantic by nature.
There are so many jewels on The Power of Negative Thinking. Those who believed that The Brothers Reid went soft with help from Mazzy Star’s Hope Sandoval on Stoned and Dethroned must have not been paying too much attention to the ever evolving careers of these Glasgow guitar gurus. You can hear sparks of their intimate stripped down flavor on the acoustic versions of “Teenage Lust” and “Taste of Cindy.”
I, myself, love the Velvet Underground-inspired echoing beauty of “Psychocandy.” It sounds like the best song that Reed, Cale, Tucker and Morrison never created. I can’t forget the siren sounding and bluesy guitar ode brilliance of “Bo Diddley is Jesus.” I dig the blow up of “Kill Surf City.” What about two killer covers of “Surfin’ USA?” There are so much more, the very romantic pop ditty “Till I Found You.” I’m sure Leonard Cohen is smiling somewhere with JAMC’s powerful cover of “The Tower of Song.” I have to say “Little Stars” and the lyrics of “I’m gonna kiss your blues away” is my personal favorite.
There are way too many and with every other track I am finding new gems that I adore. I know I shouldn’t have done it, gone out during these days of economic uncertainty but I had to buy this hefty priced 4-disc collection The Power of Negative Thinking. This is freaking JAMC, the band whose distorted pop crafted beauty was the soundtrack of my disorientated youth.
The brothers Reid inspired a generation of wanna be rockers to pick up guitars. You may have heard The Pixies cover of “Head On,” but it’s not better than the real thing. Crank it up, The Jesus and Mary Chain’s b-sides and rarities will simultaneously blow your eardrums and mind. Take it from yours truly, fuck the stock market, make the wise investment by purchasing this soon to be classic The Power of Negative Thinking, and discover what you may have missed from their 21 Singles. The other side never sounded this beautifully sinister.
The Jesus and Mary Chain – 21 Singles
Velvet Underground – Peel Slowly and See
Echo and the Bunnymen – Crystal Days