Starting Damage and Joy with the sound of a screaming noise machine turned back on,“Amputation” is symbolic of the band’s return. So many bands have imitated (i.e. ripped off) their sound in their absence it’s refreshing to be instantly reminded of what made the original so great. A sleazy riff, clever one liners (“kiss today but fuck tomorrow” ), detached vocals that pour like molasses and harmonies wrapped around distortion can be done no better than here. Jim Reid uses this background to address the band’s place in history indifferently declaring them “a ship in a bottle”,revered but closed off.
This might actually be the most self aware record they’ve ever made. Survival becomes a major theme throughout. It’s hard enough being in a band but imagine being in one with a sibling while both on drugs sounds like torture and makes their reunion all the more surprising. If anyone thought time would soften the band’s outlook though they will be sadly (more likely gladly) mistaken.”I just can’t get peace of mind, there’s a piece that I can’t find” Reid sings in the slow velvet haze of “War on Peace” that finds him struggling for direction and purpose. “All Things Must Pass” starts off sounding like an epiphany “each day/drug/girl… is gonna be my last” but quickly returns to that precarious place concluding “I’m regretting it now cause I found me.” The lingering question remains, what do you do after you’ve made it through a storm?
If there’s any upside to their moods it’s that they still have their sense of romanticism intact. Warped and love starved, “Always Sad” could pass for a Shangri-Las cover until it gets to the chorus that delivers a delightfully Mary Chain twist in “ i think I’m always gonna be sad cause you’re the best i ever had”. It’s sticky melody is undeniable and is one of the 4 (yes four, all in a row for some reason?) duets on the record. On the other side of romance, the blissful “The Two of Us” floats along in the comfort of finding a soulmate and is the hint of maturity they mentioned in recent interviews. “The two of us are getting high we don’t need drugs cause we know how to fly” might have sounded out of place on other albums but it’s executed right here. It doesn’t get more beautiful or soul scraping with confessions of “i was born the day i met you” and “you’re the reason I’m alive.”
Is this the best record they’ve ever released? no. but is this a worthy addition to their catalog? absolutely!
To celebrate the new record I’ve dived back into their discography to pull out ten deep cuts to shed some light on a few of their lesser known tracks.
From the b side of their debut single “Upside Down”, the band marked themselves as different right from the start covering a (then unreleased) Syd Barrett song and remaking it into a maniacal stomp.
Everything is Alright When You’re Down
Before Cobain sang about the comfort in being sad, the Mary Chain expressed that same sentiment but it’s delivered in such a happy melody its hard to notice or feel bad.
Jamc were rarely ever this wide eyed and optimistic again but it shows that deep down a least part of them always wanted to be a pop band.
Happy When It Rains (Demo)
There’s something really beautiful and intimate about this version that after hearing it you won’t be able to go back to the other again.
A forgotten ballad off Automatic, it’s breathy ,spacious vocals are in a world of their own. It’s a shame they never collaborated with any of their favorite sixties girl groups.
Tower of Song
Filtering Leonard Cohen through a distortion pedal shouldn’t work this well but somehow the band succeeds.
Finally re-embracing the feedback from their early days on Honey’s Dead this strutting groove becomes a standout for it’s noise solo that condenses Metal Machine Music in under a minute.
You’ve Been a Friend
“You make me come down easy” sounds like something said after a crazy drug filled night but this one is more about the lonesome high and dry day after.
Paying direct tribute to the Velvet Underground’s drummer (a band they took more than a few things from), this track is truly unique as the only JAMC track with solely a female vocalist (the Reid’s younger sister credited as Sister Vanilla) but can anyone explain why there’e a baby crying at the end?
This is the sound of a band defeated yet still fighting through it. I can’t help but think he’s talking about his brother when he sings “no one here is on my side” as Munki was famously recorded with the pair never in the same room. This could easily be a Mazzy Star song.