The Jesus and Mary Chain -- Stoned and Dethroned

(American Recordings)

Reviewed in KADE Magazine on October 13th, 1994

Arriving just as 1985 crashed into 1986, The Jesus and Mary Chain's debut, Psychocandy, was easily one of the most stunning records of the 80's. The welter of feedback battling the candy-coated melodies suggested a punk-rock Beach Boys playing the sounds Brian Wilson really heard in his head. On tracks like "My Little Underground" and "Something's Wrong," the production was as deep as it was wide. On Darklands, the follow-up, they played down the atonal feedback and concentrated on beautiful, languorous ballads, and it worked as sort of an antidote to Psychocandy.

But something happened--maybe the drugged-out darkside lifestyle that was their lyrical obsession--and their last two albums, Automatic and Honey's Dead, were bogged down by uptempo drum-machine rhythms. Not trusting the slower approach, but wanting to altogether abandon the trademark feedback, they seemed to be searching for some middle ground between the two extremes, and they failed to find any that would sustain interest over a whole albums worth of material. The fury of their sound had been revealed as mostly smoke and mirrors.

They either were dropped or left their longtime label, Reprise, and ended up on Rick Rubin's American Recordings. And surprise, surprise, the gentle Stoned and Dethroned is easily their most likeable record since Darklands. Full of 17 short songs that get in, say their respective pieces and get out again, and crammed with hook-riffs galore. Maybe it's something as simple as the label change, because they sound retrenched and revitalized, as if they finally figured that what made their early stuff so compelling was the songwriting underneath the gimmicks.

If at first the entire album seems a bit lightweight, songs like "Everybody I Know," "Dirty Water" and the single "Sometimes Always" (featuring Mazzy Snore vocalist Hope Sandoval) kick in with repeated listenings and soon you notice little touches like the quietly majestic guitar part ending "Feeling Lucky" or the not-quite-dead-yet Shane McGowan's turn on "God Help Me." Stoned and Dethroned isn't really a major achievement like Psychocandy, but if The Jesus and Mary Chain had lost you in the past few years, this is a fine way of rediscovering them.

--Jim Connelly

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This document last modified 09 August, 1995.
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