Album Review: The Jesus and Mary Chain – “Live at Barrowlands”
It’s been three decades since brothers Jim and William Reid scratched their way off an East Kilbride dole queue and unleashed Psychocandy on the UK’s nascent indie scene. A pipe bomb of distortion and unrepentant fury, the record meshed delicate poptones to a brutalist homebrew take on Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound.
To mark thirty years since its release, The Jesus and Mary Chain took to the road for a short series of performances in November 2014, during which the band’s revered debut was played live and in full for the very first time. Live at Barrowlands is taken from the opening night, a homecoming performance at Glasgow’s most famous of venues, captured here in an expansive box-set containing heavyweight vinyl, CD and 40 page hardback.
As is so often the case with live records, there’s a certain degree of ‘I guess you had to be there’ to proceedings. On occasion such as this, the on-stage performance is only a part of the equation. The real energy of the night belongs just as much, if not more so, to the old-acquaintances, nostalgists and fanatics who have gathered to relive a lost youth and worship their ageing idols.
Thankfully though, for those of us not present in person, JAMC are captured in good form. The hometown crowd provides the band with reaffirmation as caustic sibling rivalry is (mostly) set aside, but the acerbic and entrenched layers of guitar feedback are not.
A pre-set ‘encore’ consists of lost tracks from the Psychocandy sessions, with a couple of latter day crowd favourites thrown in for good measure, and none sound better than set opener April Skies. Soon enough it’s time for Psychocandy itself and whilst the vocals are a step clearer than in days past, it appears William Reid’s guitar is just as culpable of dancing gleefully out of tune. From the crowd respond, you don’t imagine they would want it any other way.
Live At Barrowlands is deafening, belligerent and at times enchanting, in the truest traditions of JAMC. That said, a deluxe edition box-set release feels an awkward fit for a band so renowned for the primal, visceral rage of their live shows. To that end, newcomers to the band are better off with the cut down release of the show Psychocandy Live, the original studio album, or dare we say it… Youtube.