1987, Music

Darklands (1987) by The Jesus and Mary Chain

The UK has a long, weird tradition of hilariously opinionated and antagonistic rock front men who bash other musicians and other people and then make wussy music; the Reids, Morrissey, the Gallaghers. (I’m sure there are many more.) That shouldn’t matter, really, but I find it harder to accept pop music (and poppier rock) on its on terms when the people make it are assholes and have massive chips on their shoulders which they want the world to know about. I mean, if you’re going to be a dick in the press, make punk music or metal or something fitting… right?

Anyway, putting my feelings about these guys aside if I can, The Mary Chain has dialed down the noise something fierce revealing them to be what people like me always knew they were, an indie pop band. (A proto indie pop band?) On this record they sound like they more in common with the sort of naive pop and rock emerging in the US at the same time than they do with the legions of shoegaze bands they inspired with their first record.

And I need something more than just a catchy melody to grab me, whether it’s the strength of the songs, the lyrics, or interesting arrangements or production. There’s none of that here.

It’s not that they’re bad songwriters – they’re quite decent songwriters. But they write different songs than the kind I usually like. And with the dense wall of noise removed we’re left with those songs for what they are: conventional pop rock songs (on the poppier side for sure) which it’s really hard to get excited about.

I know people love this record but I suspect for most people who love this record, it’s because there’s some emotional resonance for them, because they found it at the right time in their lives. I didn’t. I listened to it for my music podcast and all I hear are some reasonably above-average songs by a band that has removed the very thing that made them influential.

I still would prefer to listen to this than, say, Whitney Houston’s record from 1987, or Michael Jackson’s, or hair metal. But that might be damning with faint praise.


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