Jesus And Mary Chain, live in Manchester

The Brothers Reid return with a Psychocandy full-album show

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Given that theirs is one of rock’s more fractious sibling rivalries, it’s a small miracle that JAMC are here at all. That they manage to still sound so head-slappingly powerful is another thing altogether.

The Reid brothers don’t look a whole lot different from their shaggy ‘80s pomp – aside from Jim’s cropped haircut, that is – and neither do they make any concession to making us believe the passing years have turned them into shiny happy people. If surliness were an art form, JAMC would be top of the class. The music hasn’t changed much either. No matter how much they blanket things in white noise, these songs have living, breathing melodies that no amount of feedback can deny.

Tonight’s sell-out show, built around a complete performance of 1985 debut Psychocandy, finds them taking a fairly novel approach to their back catalogue. First off we get the ‘hits’. It’s not immediately apparent why they’re going about it this way – maybe they feel that a gruelling first course of Psychocandy would’ve left no room for dessert; or maybe they’re just been contrary for the sheer bloody hell of it – but it certainly makes for a lively start. April Skies induces a spontaneous bout of moshing down the front, the song rupturing forth against a backdrop of flashing white lights.

Head On and Some Candy Talking are just as feral, William completely wrapped up in coaxing sheets of sound from his guitar, Jim stage centre at the mike. There’s a great intro to Reverence, one that seems to go on forever but actually lasts only a few minutes, wherein William thrashes out some brutal industrial noise and Jim looks on in a vaguely bewildered fashion, as if he can’t quite believe the intensity of what he’s hearing. Eventually he starts singing with a renewed sense of purpose.

There’s a brief interlude before they come back on to start Psychocandy, backed by a film of their native East Kilbride that looks like it dates from the late ‘50s or early ‘60s, roughly chiming with the brothers’ births.

Just Like Honey gets a huge roar, with William’s girlfriend taking on the female vocal part that Scarlett Johansson did at Coachella some years back. There are times during this second half where it seems as though the band are merely interested in making as much of a racket as they possibly can. Maybe they’re trying to mask Psychocandy’s shortcomings (let’s face it, it might be their most notorious album, but pitted against Darklands or even Honey’s Dead, it’s not their best), but it sometimes feels like a battle of attrition between the senses.

They close things with It’s So Hard, at which time William abandons his guitar and stalks offstage, leaving it reverb’ing to the rafters until the lights come up. All in, it’s great to have them back. Let’s hope they can hold it together enough to see out their 30th anniversary shows next year. Meanwhile, I’m still checking my ears for blood.

Rob Hughes

Freelance writer for Classic Rock since 2008, and sister title Prog since its inception in 2009. Regular contributor to Uncut magazine for over 20 years. Other clients include Word magazine, Record Collector, The Guardian, Sunday Times, The Telegraph and When Saturday Comes. Alongside Marc Riley, co-presenter of long-running A-Z Of David Bowie podcast. Also appears twice a week on Riley’s BBC6 radio show, rifling through old copies of the NME and Melody Maker in the Parallel Universe slot. Designed Aston Villa’s kit during a previous life as a sportswear designer. Geezer Butler told him he loved the all-black away strip.