The trials and tribulations of The Jesus and Mary Chain's latest album

Released in March 2017, Damage and Joy was the Jesus and Mary Chain’s first album in 19 years. 

Led by brothers Jim and William Reid, the band entered a state of extreme dysfunction while recording their sixth LP, Munki, in 1998. The Reids could barely tolerate each other in the studio and tensions considerably worsened on the subsequent album tour.

After officially calling it quits in 1999, William adopted the solo moniker Lazycame and Jim formed Freeheat with former Mary Chain guitarist Ben Lurie. But while separation was essential for the Reids’ health and sanity, they were unable to generate comparable artistic potency outside of the Mary Chain.

Jim and William reunited in 2007 and The Jesus and Mary Chain have been touring regularly ever since. But it took ten years for a new album to surface. 

“Those songs that were on Damage and Joy were knocking about anyway,” says Jim. “We’re always writing songs. It’s what we do, so whether they make it onto record or whether we play them live, at any given moment we’re sitting chugging away with our guitars writing songs. The creative process is always happening whether it appears to be or not.”

Their creative drive might’ve never ceased, but Jim certainly wasn’t hungering to get back in the studio.

“We didn’t do an album right away for various reasons really. That was more to do with the fact that having recorded Munki so many years before, that was quite a painful experience. I was not really looking forward to getting back in a recording studio. William was quite keen, but the band was ticking along quite well live and I thought, well, getting in the studio’s a whole different ball game. I thought maybe that could just be the thing that fucks it all up.” 

The Jesus and Mary Chain made an immediate impact with their 1985 debut, Psychocandy, showcasing an acute melodic sensibility and preference for haystacks of guitar feedback. Psychocandy is often seen as a paragon of shoegaze music, while its deliberately cleaner follow-up, Darklands, magnified the brothers’ songwriting prowess. 

The Mary Chain’s commercial fortunes blossomed with their next record, Automatic, and all three releases have claimed canonical status. It’s a lot to live up to, but Jim says the band’s past glory wasn’t a factor in the making of Damage and Joy.

“We felt pretty good. We knew the songs. Even before the record’s recorded you have it in mind how it’s going to come out and it’s usually in the ball park. So we felt pretty good about what we knew we had. And truth be told, had we put the record out and everybody hated it, we can live with that. It’s not the end of the world,” he says.

“As long as we liked it. That’s always been the base when we make a record. I want to be able to stand by that record and say, yeah, whether you like it or not, we believe in it. That’s the main concern, everything else is gravy.”

Despite arriving 32 years after the band’s debut, Damage and Joy is distinctly the work of The Jesus and Mary Chain. The band’s taken a few unexpected turns in their history – cleaning up on Darklands and adopting a more stripped back sound on 1994’s Stoned & Dethroned – but the Reids’ predilection for filthy noise and classic pop song structures still shines through.

“I think the things you get into as a kid stay with you,” says Jim. “The first records that we bought we still have. I still play ‘Hellraiser’ by Sweet. That was the first single I ever bought. I bought that and William bought ‘Drive-In Saturday’ by David Bowie with a couple of record tokens that my auntie gave us. A cousin lent us loads of Beatles and Bob Dylan albums. Those sort of things you never forget. You never forget the first things that get you into music.”

The Jesus and Mary Chain come to The Forum on Tuesday March 12 and The Croxton on Thursday March 14. Head to the respective venue websites for tickets. They’ll also play Golden Plains (sold out) which takes over the Meredith Supernatural Amphitheatre from Saturday March 9 to Monday March 11.