The Jesus and Mary Chain
Damage and Joy
Year of release: 2017
If 1985's Psychocandy set the standard for fuzzed out (and bummed out) shoegaze with gorgeous melodies, then brothers Jim and William Reid spent the better half of the following decade trying to live up to their own hype machine. After 1998's misguided Munki, the duo parted ways, perhaps because the music scene they helped engender was going off in other directions. Now, in 2017, a reunion of shoegaze bands is all the rage; with recent output from the likes of My Bloody Valentine, Ride, and Slow Dive making the rounds.
Damage and Joy is the first record from the brothers in nearly two decades, and as such, sounds very much like a retreat into candy-coated nostalgia. This isn't necessarily a criticism, as The Jesus and Mary Chain seem to have plucked their back catalog for the right amount of noise-pop harmonies and fuzzy guitar work. The results are both lackadaisical and emotive, giving tales of lost love and quasi-political reflections the appropriate jolt of druggy haze. There aren't really any transcendent moments here; which makes sense given that the Williams brothers are now middle-aged, but this isn't a record lacking in insight or feeling either. For example, the album's centerpiece, “Los Feliz (Blues and Greens)", offers a winking ballad about the greatness of America, closer "Can't Stop the Rock" is a scathing indictment of the United Nations, and "Simian Split" gives its own reading on Kurt Cobain's death, complete with warbly sax and frantic drums.
Damage and Joy is a potent reminder that the kids still want their Scottish stoner ballads as long as it doesn't require more than a detached glance. More than simply aping retro nostalgia, The Jesus and Mary Chain have created a record which both feels right at home with their decades-old work while entertaining the possibility of getting off the couch, and that alone, is something of a miracle.