The Jesus and Mary Chain are probably not on many of our readers top 10 bands of all time or even realise the influence that these two Scottish brothers may have had on their musical landscape. Delivering their first EP in 1983, TJAMC recorded 6 studio albums before splitting up officially in 1998 with one of their final gigs ending after only 15 minutes. At that time, lead singer Jim Reid, too drunk to sing and stand, his brother William Reid, walked off stage. Tonight, they are supported by the suitably placed Grinding Eyes and the curve ball of Nova Scotia’s pop-dreamers, Alvvays.
It was good to be invited back to the landmark Melbourne Forum, it seems few and far between with so many major artists/bands playing here that can sometimes have media access offers like searching for needles in haystacks. The great bunch at PopFrenzy are to thank for bringing nostalgia and gritty British rock n roll back to Australia, which leads us nicely to Grinding Eyes, who according to their Facebook page are describe as “combining psychedelic drone rock and ambient garage in a sound scape of dark noise Psychedelic Rock, krautrock, B-Grade Movies an d Cocktails.”
Grinding Eyes produce a loud and full swelling sound of gritty feedback reminiscent of bands like Black Rebel Motor Cycle Club and Band of Skulls. They are a powerful and suitably fit to tonight’s main act. The set is short, confident and loud and as the band leave the stage ABBA fades in over the PA in complete contrast, a perfect way to soften the soul in lead up to Alvvays.
Perhaps a slightly odd selection for “support” to TJMAC tonight, Alvvays were also on their Australian tour thanks to PopFrenzy, so it made sense to bring to these unlikely bands together, a move that will prove to have paid off. Alvvays brought an air of “music of today” to the event, undoubtedly persuading usually defiant ears who may normally refuse to move from their catalogue of yesteryear, to realise there are some great new bands out there.
Fronting the band, Molly Rankin is a confident and powerful female lead that may stand petite and immaculately dressed with hair as white and soft as snow but is not what you expect, her poise is impeccable. Touring Australia for the first time to deliver their debut self-titled album, their set is largely taken from this release. This is music for the twenty-somethings, with the majority of their songs written with a level of angst and attitude, set against melodic power riffs and intricate guitar licks. Following in the very busy footsteps of the loosely defined Dream Pop genre, Alvvays, offer something a little different then there equals and call upon bands like Veruca Salt, Lush and Belly. Completing a fluently tight set tonight, the band close with their hit single Archie, Marry Me that holds over 6.5 million listens on Spotify, a testament to a young band who prove that with clever lyrics and a catchy verse, you can rise above the others.
In 1998, TJMAC supported Primal Scream in Glasgow and I was lucky enough to be at the Barrowlands at the time, a gig that had me driving from London on an 8 hour unplanned and grueling trip. It is with this wonderfully exhaustive memory that tonight’s gig would be based. A very vague memory from the Barrowland’s gig recalls the band walking off stage before their set was due as the brothers were completely out of it.
With a trademark ambiance that pumps the stage with smoke, a collection of Orange branded amps, red lights and strobes for intensity, the Reid brothers amble on stage with their fellow band members, the words Psycho Candy, The Jesus and the Mary Chain written behind them. Jim Reid explains to us that the night will play in two parts, a few selected tracks from the past and few minutes break for a “cup of tea” then return to stage with Psycho Candy played in its entirety, to celebrate 30 excellent years.
So it begins, first up April Skies, sounds as fresh and relevant tonight as it did 28 years ago, the band are perfectly tight (by their standards) and Jim looks so comfortable and every move, whether body or hand, suggests that so many bands of today have taken a leaf out of Jim’s book on how to be effortlessly cool. Head On, sounds as urgent as it does on vinyl as does Blues From A Gun, these are songs that we weren’t expecting to hear but they sounded even better for exceeding our expectation, many of us long-standing fans were one step closer to musical heaven. Smoke bellowed and enveloped around the band, while the strobes flickered all the way to the final song of part one, Reverence, from the brilliant album Honey’s Dead. William Reid’s guitar filled the auditorium with a wall of distorted sound while the groove of bass and drum kept it all together, Jim Reid signing “I want to die like Jesus Christ, I want to do die on a bed of spikes”, redefined timeless cool.
Part 2, Psycho Candy in full with the opener Just Like Honey and its unmistakable simple drum beat and repetitive bass line raising a massive cheer throughout the Forum. It is hard to put your finger on what makes this track so perfect, so important to indie music but it sounds so beautiful live, and thanks to Molly from Alvvays filling the gentle harmony of “Just like Honey”, many of us could have happily called it a night.
The band played track by track as expected against a stage that was sometimes so smoke riddled the band were nowhere to be seen. The Living End, In a Hole, Taste of Cindy, Inside Me and My Little Underground tripped us back to early Ramones, 60s pop and gritty punk, mixed with the laid back swagger of tracks like Cut Death, Sowing Seeds and Somethings Wrong, live it sounds perfectly distributed.
There is not much to say about TJMAC as a live band, they do not chat, they do not talk to one another, they just play and rely on the intensity of their music and strobe to offer the intensity that it delivers and with closing track from the album, It’s So Hard, the Reid brothers raise their arms in appreciation and leave the stage while a few wait in hope of encore that we, of course, new this would never happen.