As Christmas looms and last-minute present ideas abound for music lovers everywhere, the deluxe box set seems ready made to plug such aural holes.
Increasingly, this year, the trend has been towards vinyl sets covering an artist’s full catalogue – be it Suede, The Clash or Can. Making a late entry but entirely deserving of your attention is this gloriously assembled package of the (almost) complete works of The Jesus And Mary Chain.
For a band who, initially at least, were all about the sonics, attention to detail when committing their whole discography back to wax was vital. Rest assured that this has clearly been a labour of love.
Whether newcomer or hardened aficionado, the importance of some of the material within this box is hard to deny. While the Mary Chain weren’t entirely consistent, their peaks were remarkable and their impact notable.
Whether your allegiances lie with direct descendants like My Bloody Valentine and Primal Scream or the stoner-rock scene, these albums had their part to play in their existence. While the fuzzed-up charge of 1985’s debut ‘Psychocandy’ is one of life’s essential albums, the rest of their catalogue isn’t always talked of in such hallowed terms.
Listened to in chronological order, these six studio albums offer a portrait of a band that never stood still. Dismantling the noise, and with a nod to Lee Hazlewood’s more gloomy tunes, 1987’s ‘Darklands’ was a different, fascinating beast. Having let the brooding songs breathe, there followed 1989’s slightly calculated ‘Automatic’ where the band seemed to lose direction.
1992’s ‘Honey’s Dead’ was a revitalised hotchpotch of sounds, while 1994’s ‘Stoned & Dethroned’ was far better than its title implied, blessed with a little intervention from Mazzy Star’s Hope Sandoval. By the time they stumbled to a halt with 1998’s decent but inessential ‘Munki’, the band had traversed genres, inspired many and ensured their legacy.
The accompanying booklet lays bare the stories behind each of these records, making use of more of the interview material previously used for the CD/DVD reissues several years ago. As with any of these reissue projects, as lovely as it is to see the artwork in its 12” incarnation, to avoid this being an opulently presented collection of sizeable Frisbees, what really matters is the mastering.
Thankfully, all is well here, and these albums sound as good as they ever have. Warm basslines are prominent, the guitars spring from the speakers and the music really breathes. Well, as much as ‘Psychocandy’ ever could.
Boosted by radio sessions, live tracks and fan-selected rarities, it is a truly spectacular time capsule and an enjoyably decadent way to absorb some wonderfully important music. Some of the session tracks fizz in the moment with a vitality beyond those vintage albums, ‘Deep One Perfect Morning’ and ‘Coast To Coast’ especially.
While not all of the live recordings feel entirely necessary, this is still a hugely satisfying package and a decent template for how these sorts of projects can and should be done.
Words: Gareth James
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‘Just Like Honey’, from ‘Psychocandy’
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