Giving Music Another Try
Damage and Joy, the comeback album from cult classic Scottish rock band The Jesus and Mary Chain, has a few high points, but ultimately leaves listeners wanting more. The Reid brothers seemingly picked up right where they left off in 1998, with no sense of artistic progression found throughout all fourteen new songs. The Jesus and Mary Chain helped set the precedent for blending noise, emo, slowcore and pop in the ’90s, bringing to life genres that propelled the likes of Mazzy Star and Slowdive. However, this genre recently hasn’t been done the way it was when it first came to fruition, and Damage and Joy shows that it may not resonate the way it did 20 years ago.
Vocalist Jim and guitarist William Reid have had a years-long spat that kept the band on hiatus after the release of Munki. The band’s Psychocandy Tour in 2015 gave listeners another taste of what noise pop had been missing. Suspending the band in time like this has had a profound impact on Damage and Joy, however. The music sounds exactly the same. While the first few tracks are enjoyable, the rest seem to drag on as if the listener never changed songs in the first place. “Mood Rider” have great names and a strong openings, but lack anything to set them apart from the album’s other offerings. Noise always tends to mash together, and this is definitely true with this album.
The usage of pop music to promote a rather somber aesthetic is commendable and can be heard in songs such as “All Things Pass” and “Always Sad,” which showcase how The Jesus and Mary Chain continue to pioneer their sound. The band’s influence on noise pop is as profound as that of The Velvet Underground; what they did in the past was priceless. The Reid brothers are the ones who set the bar so high.
The first song on the album, “Amputation,” can give listeners perspective as to what they are about to listen to. It perfectly sums up the album in a few short minutes, making it one of the most notable songs on Damage and Joy. Another strong song is the album’s second number, aptly titled “War on Peace.” It starts off slow, but holds a dark omniscient feel, while the Reid brothers take the listener through a feeling that blends pop and psychedelic rock. Every song title on the album is reminiscent of American southwestern culture, becoming a cross between California and the New Mexico of Breaking Bad‘s world.
While none of the songs stand out lyrically, they also are not cheesy, vapid or empty; talking about love working and not working is quite clichéd in music, and that certainly hasn’t changed. There is also the implementation of accompanying female vocals in “Song for a Secret” and “The Two of Us,” which helps to set these songs apart. Considering the band’s lengthy hiatus, their comeback album is impressive. However, it simply falls short in terms of its maturity and growth. This does not mean that Damage and Joy isn’t worth a listen, though. Die-hard fans will still want to grab a copy of this album. Others should give at least the first half a listen, which nicely captures the spirit of the album as a whole.