Scottish shoegazers The Jesus and Mary Chain have finally broken their nineteen year silence with the release of their long overdue seventh studio album. Released on March 24 via ADA/Warner, ‘Damage and Joy’ is like a time capsule unearthed in the trenches of contemporary music. It also marks their first collaboration with musician and producer Youth.
As ‘Amputation’ tears into action with the familiar squeal of feedback that is synonymous with The Jesus and Mary Chain, you are instantly transported back to the time and place where you first discovered them. It becomes quickly apparent that their sound has made it through the last two decades largely unscathed. It’s not surprising that – given the fact they’ve been recycling the same material at live shows for so long – they have had little room for experimentation.
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However, a step too far away from their iconic sound might have been their downfall given the extensive gap between albums. For many people, ‘Damage and Joy’ could be their first taste of The Jesus and Mary Chain, so there was no desperate need for them to revamp their sound to appeal to a new audience. Given the twenty year cycle, bands of their era are very much back in vogue anyway. Also, any drastic change might have compromised their relationship with any long standing fans who were expecting a shot of instant nostalgia – luckily, this is most definitely not the case.
With a total of fourteen tracks, ‘Damage and Joy’ can feel a little long-winded at times. Although there are no bad songs, there are some that require a fair few listens before you start to fully appreciate them. Then there are songs such as ‘All Things Pass’ and ‘Presidici (Et Chapaquiditch)’ which are instantly likeable. The simplicity of the riffs that sear through the tracks is proof enough that you don’t need to over-complicate things in order to make a powerful statement. Such instrumentation allows room for the typically brilliant JAMC-esque lyrics to breathe. As expected, they manage to find a good lyrical balance between the simplistic and the symbolic in phrases ranging from ‘I’m a rock and roll amputation’ in the opening track, to ‘church and state may chase you to the grave, J.D. Coeff may take you as a slave’ in the album closer ‘Can’t Stop the Rock’.
With ‘Damage and Joy’, The Jesus and Mary Chain have injected some life back into a sub-genre that has been dangerously mainstream shy over the last couple of decades. It is a record that manages to be both nostalgic and refreshing, making it accessible to a diverse audience. We can only hope that they don’t leave it so long next time.