Every The Jesus and Mary Chain album ranked from worst to best

The Jesus and Mary Chain in 1987
(Image credit: Gie Knaeps/Getty Images)

Led by songwriting duo Jim and William Reid, Scottish alt-rock collective The Jesus and Mary Chain are one of the most beloved cult acts that Britain has ever produced. From their early intention of melding the noisy punk of The Stooges with the sugary pop melodies of The Beach Boys, to their latter dalliances with industrial sounds, noise rock and synth-pop - consistency being provided throughout by the seemingly endless tensions between band members - the Mary Chain's career has been nothing if not eventful.

A new album, Glasgow Eyes, is on the horizon, with a March 2024 release date: while we await its arrival, here are their seven studio albums ranked from worst to best.

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7) Munki (1998)

Beset by personal problems and frustrations with the music industry, Munki, the final JAMC album released before their 1999 split, is an enjoyable, if unremarkable, effort.

Bringing in Sister Vanilla, aka Linda Reid, Jim and William's younger sister, on Moe Tucker and once again utilising Mazzy Star vocalist Hope Sandoval on Perfume are the masterstrokes here, but much of Munki is listless versions of what had come before.

6) Damage and Joy (2017)

Comeback albums from classic artists can be difficult to pull off, but with Damage and Joy, The Jesus and Mary Chain managed to make an album that satisfied long-time fans and still managed to sound current.

There’s little that you would suggest is new or risky here, but those gorgeous melodies, feedback drenched chords and dislocated rhythms were all present and correct here. Isobel Campbell popping up on a couple of excellent tracks is a very welcome addition, and The Mary Chain still sounded like The Mary Chain. By no means their best work, but, still, job done.

5) Stoned and Dethroned (1994)

The first JAMC album recorded with a full band since Psychocandy came with a quite fascinating stylistic shift. Eschewing feedback and volume, The Mary Chain instead delivered an album of woozy, delicate beauty with their fifth long-player.

When you’ve built a career from noisy pursuits, going in with the intention to write an acoustic album was a risk for the band, but Stoned and Dethroned is a gorgeous record, and songs such as Come On, Never Saw it Coming and the poetic lilt of God Help Me, featuring the late, great Shane MacGowan on lead vocals, are fantastic, undeniable deviations.

4) Honey’s Dead (1992)

After the slicker-sounding Automatic, this was a return to the punkier and wilder tones of the JAMC's earlier material. Honey’s Dead is an album that came very much at the right time, during the alternative rock boom of the early 90’s.

Still more danceable than their first couple of efforts, but with squealing feedback and fuzzy riffs in place, it’s no wonder the band were embraced by the Lollapalooza crowd during this period. Singles like Far Gone and Out and Reverence sound like great, lost indie-club floor fillers from a bygone era, and album tracks Tumbledown and I Can’t Get Enough possess equally anthemic qualities.

3) Automatic (1989)

An album that was largely frowned upon by fans of the band upon release, but the years have been exceptionally kind to Automatic. The poppier, more synth-led, upbeat driving indie rock of opener Here Comes Alice is more relatable to the spiky, greebo punk of a band like Carter USM than it was anything that JAMC were more widely known for. The dreamy, unrefined racket of their first couple of albums was binned off for a tauter, more propulsive, industrial hard rock mash up, and when it works, like on Head On (later to be covered by Pixies), it’s glorious fun. Much better than you remember, honestly.

2) Darklands (1987)

It’s hugely impressive that The Jesus and Mary Chain managed to Follow up a legitimate classic debut with something that runs it as close as Darklands does. Having tired of their Spinal Tap-level difficulty in retaining drummers - Bobby Gillespie of Primal Scream fame being the most recent splitter - the Reid brothers famously turned to a drum machine for the first time in their career, giving this album an inhuman, rhythmic thud.

This had the effect of greater emphasis being placed on the hooks and songwriting, and what songs they concocted: Happy When it Rains, the dour beauty of Nine Million Rainy Days, the Velvet Underground slink of Deep One Perfect Morning, the curled lip strut of big single April Skies... the list goes on. Simply put, Darklands contains some of the finest, most anthemic indie-rock songs of the decade.

1) Psychocandy (1985)

What else? From the warm, woozy opening chords of the now classic Just Like Honey, Psychocandy has an aura and uniqueness that justifies its reputation as one of the greatest debut albums ever made. That initial intention to create music as sweetg as The Beach Boys, as explorative as The Velvet Underground and as noisy as The Stooges was never again quite so brilliantly realised.

Although that combination might now seem like a pretty simple concept, the fact that no one (even themselves) ever managed to get that balance so perfect is evidence of what a special album Psychocandy is. From the screaming, fuzz overload of The Living End to the cavernous sounding Inside Me to the psychedelic, nightmare-pop of Something’s Wrong, this is an incredible set of songs that basically created the blueprint for the shoegaze scene that would follow in its wake. It still sounds box fresh today.

Stephen Hill

Since blagging his way onto the Hammer team a decade ago, Stephen has written countless features and reviews for the magazine, usually specialising in punk, hardcore and 90s metal, and still holds out the faint hope of one day getting his beloved U2 into the pages of the mag. He also regularly spouts his opinions on the Metal Hammer Podcast.