The Jesus and Mary Chain - Damage and Joy
by Taylor-William Hill
Before writing this review, I was torn between what score I believe this album deserves to be credited, and what I believe it deserves. I looked up some other reviews from other fellow reviewers from The Guardian and the NME and the responses were ambivalent. Some of the reviewers were hailing Damage and Joy as The Jesus and Mary Chain’s “best ever album”, whereas others were more “yeah, whatever” about it. For me, it’s in the middle of this spectrum; it’s memorable but also forgettable, too. If I had to rank it, I would say it’s their fourth best album – which is a respectable number considering the band have seven albums in their repertoire. The album is certainly no Psychocandy – but I never expected it to be. I commend how the band have started creating a new, distinct (yet difficult to describe) sound, in tuning with today’s alt-rock sound.
Upon first listen, the album’s fan-picked single Amputation was kind of disappointing. It’s difficult to recite my exact first impressions, but I remember not particularly having positive feelings towards it. I found it quite bland personally and then I immediately became sceptical about what was to succeed. I thought back to when I listened to Always Sad, which I praised for its surf-vibe sound; I still absolutely love this song and think it’s one of the strongest on the album. The rest of the album just kind of meanders from there upon first listen; the songs Two of Us, Facing Up To The Facts and the last ten minutes of War of Peace – and of course, Always Sad – have a prestige above a bunch of forgettable songs.
So, my first impression was to give the album a 2⁄5 because it genuinely is a good album, if not a little forgettable. It was more or less pick and choose for me, not what I would have wanted from one of my favourite bands of all time - and a fourteen track album.
But, alas! I have recently grown a little fond of Damage and Joy, and here’s why:
It’s a rock record - no doubt about it. William Reid adopts a much punchy and less reverb(y) guitar sound which, in my opinion, seems very Les Paul(y). He would probably be inclined to disagree with me on this, however. Jim Reid’s vocals also sound a lot cleaner; it’s clear the band no longer proceed with their shoegaze-pioneering sound, this album digresses from that formula to deliver something a lot more meaningful and slightly less anarchistic, and I love that. It’s just so incredibly chill.
I’m not a person who analyses lyrics so I can’t break them down for you in a coherent and poetic way. I appreciated the lyric: “the two of us are getting high, we don’t need drugs ‘cause we know how to fly”, in the song Two Of Us. I don’t know why, it resonates with something close to home with me, which is why I’ve grown more attached to the song War On Peace, too.
If you’re new to The Jesus and Mary Chain, this album won’t give you the best initial impression. I would start with 1985, then 1987 and then 2017. It’s quite a fun little trip. The inclusion of uplifting female vocals too harmonise beautifully with Jim’s moody tone.