Album Review: The Jesus and Mary Chain reveal their stunning ‘Glasgow Eyes’ – an intoxicating mix of swagger and attitude with just a hint of reflection.

Feature Photograph: Mel Butler

The Breakdown

'Glasgow Eyes' is up there with the band's finest material - it combines the challenging audacious sonic stance of 'Psycho Candy' with the more above-the-mix pop sensibilities of 'Darklands' (sometimes all within the same track) and yet - and I'm sure the band would hate this - it has within it a delicate poignancy with themes that look back at their tumultuous past. It's wry, sardonic, humorous at times, and as world weary as the JAMC have always been - and is all the more brilliant for it.
Fuzz Club Records 9.8

The Jesus and Mary Chain release ‘Glasgow Eyes’ via Fuzz Club Records on Friday, 22 March 2024 ahead of a propitious year during which the duo – brothers Jim and William Reid – will further mark their 40th year in the industry with an autobiography (published by Orion/White Rabbit) and a major UK and European tour.

It’s been seven years since we last heard from the iconic band, and it has been well worth the wait with the band producing one of their most creative and innovative albums yet. It is an album which seemingly picks up the baton directly from ‘Psycho Candy’ – it could almost be seen as that album’s natural successor – combining their trademark Beach Boys melodies with chainsaws. And yet, perhaps reflecting a forty year journey, there is an element of self reflection and defiant poignancy hidden deep down below the sneering swagger.

‘Glasgow Eyes’ was recorded at Mogwai’s Castle of Doom studio in Glasgow, where they recorded their previous album, 2017’s ‘Damage and Joy’, which was their highest charting album in over twenty years. What has emerged is a record that finds one of the UK’s most influential groups embracing a productive second chapter, their maelstrom of melody, feedback and controlled chaos now informed more audibly by their love for Suicide and Kraftwerk and a fresh appreciation of the less disciplined attitudes found in jazz.

Jazz? Jim Reid warns:

 But don’t expect ‘the Mary Chain goes jazz.’ People should expect a Jesus and Mary Chain record, and that’s certainly what Glasgow Eyes is. Our creative approach is remarkably the same as it was in 1984, just hit the studio and see what happens. We went in with a bunch of songs and let it take its course. There are no rules, you just do whatever it takes. And there’s a telepathy there – we are those weird not-quite twins that finish each other’s sentences.

Importantly, there is no cut and paste approach to the songs – each one is distinctive and sees the band stretch genres and avoid repetition and boredom. But at the heart is that incisive and acute ear for melody and a combative approach that lends an immediacy and authenticity to their songwriting. As I am always prone to say, creativity has no use-by date and this band continues to innovate and create into their later years.

‘Venal Joy’ proves that age has not wearied the band, with a track that lives up to its title – a snarling angry outburst that is powerfully delivered over a driving electronic pulse and fruity language serving as a qualified declaration of the bands own longevity and power: I’m alright, I’m ok , well, ok, I’m alright.

Turning down the dial a little, ‘American Born’ harks back to the undisputed influence of the sixties girl bands on the brothers with its doo-wop beginnings, but veers into a light pattering rhythm with plonking instruments and a driving beat ending in a rousing anthemic finale.

A female voice seeps under the surface at the beginning and end of ‘Mediterranean X Film’ and its yearning melody exposes the melancholy barbed wire tones of JAMC, and yet is surprisingly buoyant and bubbly, nuanced and subtle, the guitars gently strumming over the aquatic percussion. There is almost a dream pop ethereal tone to the fade out. Have the Chain gone all soft and cuddly (despite the song’s title)?

No, of course not. Opening with a psychedelic electronic clang, ‘jamcod’ launches into a hyperkinetic motorik beat that thunders along before Jim Reid’s signature louche, sneering and laconic vocals kick in along with thundering guitars in the chorus. It’s like JAMC fell into a concrete mixer with Cabaret Voltaire and New Order and still comes out sounding like JAMC, but with a high voltage zap and a government health warning.

The track clearly references the breakdown of the brothers’ relationship and the band’s ultimate break up in the nineties before their famous reform at Coachella in 2007, with a sardonic reference to the salacious glee of observers – tears are what you want, tears are what you got. It’s so good to see them so angry and disdainful as ever.

‘Discotheques’ has a doom-laden entrance with JAMC channelling a little Gothic-era Cure with the track prowling like a caged tiger over the plucked descending notes that create an hypnotic effect. Jim Reid’s vocals are back in the mix but as sneering as ever, exhibiting a certain world weariness. Again, the title of the track misleads you – this is not about the delirious joys of dancing by any means but rather a wry overview of ubiquity.

The sonic concrete slabs of ‘Pure Poor’ emerge like some foghorn in the mist accompanied by almost discordant guitars and a slow rolling pace. It’s dark and gloomy thunder but lightened by the melodies.

There is almost a familiar rock n roll trope to ‘The Eagles and the Beatles’ with its three chord thunder and the harmonies, tipping a hat to the Rolling Stones and other musical influences through Joan Jett and the Blackhearts pounding guitars. Ironically, and in line with the rest of the album, the title doesn’t seem to reflect the theme. It is a paean to Brian Jones era Stones and a cursive contemplation of the musical influences that have shaped the Reid brothers. I’m not sure either the Eagles or The Beatles played a role.

‘Silver Strings’ is a high stepping almost jaunty piece absent of fuzz and doom and with a bed of strings and plonking instruments. It’s JAMC flirting with the fairground approach of Einstürzende Neubauten with a carnival feel and a jazzy swing.

Prowling around like a caged animal, ‘Chemical Animal’ has a satisfying brooding element that exudes malevolence and disdain in the band’s own inimitable fashion. There is a motorik beat behind the sonic throb – a more electrified abrasive sound with Jim Reid’s signatory detached, sneery delivery.

Like ‘jamcod’, there is an autobiographical element to the single, reflecting on the band’s turbulent past. Jim Reid says:

Our work on our autobiography definitely bled into our work on the album. ‘jamcod’, the first single from the album, was about that night in 1998 in the House of Blues when the band broke up. ‘Chemical Animal’ is different but related. I was thinking back to those dark days of chemical dependency. When you fall so deep into that hole that everything you do is by instinct. The drugs are the driving force. The thing that gets you from a to b is whether you can score. It was a horrible way to live and I’m thankful I don’t live that way any more. One effect is that it made me aware of how our brains, who we are, how we feel, and what we do, depend on our neural chemistry, a chemistry beyond our control. It’s a biological curse we can’t escape.

It’s classic JAMC territory – bleak, melodic and atmospheric

With its arpeggiated instruments that circulate through the track, ‘Second of June’ is JAMC showing off their best high-stepping commercial pop sensibilities – classic unadulterated JAMC with their inherent ability to write the most euphoric melodies (replete with an ironic self reference in the lyrics). This is a treasure of a track and a glowing testament to the band’s continued songwriting prowess.

‘Girl 71’ is a sixties-infused riff-heavy sneery nihilistic delight – girl you got nothing, you got me, you got nothing and that’s nothing, you got me. Delicious and cathartic fare:

‘Hey Lou Reid’ is an extensive sonic journey, twisting and turning from high pulse fuzz to something more psychedelic and ethereal all within its six minutes. The deliberate misspelling is hilarious – is JAMC the natural successors of Velvet Underground? To be honest, I’ve always thought so.

‘Glasgow Eyes’ is up there with the band’s finest material – it combines the challenging audacious sonic stance of ‘Psycho Candy’ with the more above-the-mix pop sensibilities of ‘Darklands’ (sometimes all within the same track) and yet – and I’m sure the band would hate this – it has within it a delicate poignancy with themes that look back at their tumultuous past. Musically, however, it is a band looking forward, stretching themselves and growing with a sense of maturity, however dressed as they are in the trademark cool. It’s wry, sardonic, humorous at times, and as world weary as the JAMC have always been – and is all the more brilliant for it.

‘Glasgow Eyes’ is out through Fuzz Club Records on Friday, 22 March 2024 and you can pre-order it here and through the link below. Physical formats include CD, single vinyl and, for those who love the sound of vinyl at its purest, limited edition 45 rpm double-vinyl lavishly packaged with artwork by William Reid.

You can catch the band on tour across the UK and Europe:

March 22 – Manchester, UK @ Albert Hall
March 25 – Dublin, IE @ Olympia
March 26 – Belfast, UK @ Limelight 1
March 27 – Edinburgh, UK @ Usher Hall
March 30 – London, UK @ Roundhouse
April 2 – Copenhagen, DK @ Amager Bio
April 3 – Gothenburg, SE @ Pustervik
April 5 – Oslo, NO @ Rockefeller
April 6 – Stockholm, SE @ Munich Brewery
April 7 – Malmo, SE @ Plan B
April 9 – Hamburg, DE @ Markthalle
April 11 – Berlin, DE @ Huxleys
April 12 – Cologne, DE @ Live Music Hall
April 13 – Paris, FR @ Elysée Montmartre
April 15 – Geneva, CH @ L’Usine
April 16 – Winterthur, CH @ Salzhaus
April 17 – Milan, IT @ Alcatraz
April 19 – Krems, AT @ Donaufestival
April 20 – Heidelberg, DE @ Halle O2
April 21 – Tilburg, NL @ Roadburn Festival
April 23 – Brussels, BE @ AB
April 24 – The Hague, NL @ Paard

An US date has also been announced for 11 May at Pasadena, CA – Cruel World which may anticipate a wider overseas tour ahead.

Feature Photograph: Mel Butler

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1 Comment

  1. […] This is hot on the heels of their brilliant new album ‘Glasgow Eyes’ (reviewed by me here). […]

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