Glasgow Eyes by The Jesus and Mary Chain review by Leslie Ken Chu for Northern Transmissions.


Glasgow Eyes

The Jesus and Mary Chain

“No, I won’t give up and die,” Jim Reid sings on “Venal Joy,” the opening track from the Jesus and Mary Chain’s eighth album, Glasgow Eyes. As the album attests, the iconic Scottish rock duo still has plenty of vigour.

Jim and his brother William, who co-founded the Jesus and Mary Chain in 1983, wrote Glasgow Eyes while combing through archival material about the band for an upcoming autobiography. With that trip through their own history came memories both fond and difficult, of the band’s most euphoric revelries and its most sordid lows. Some songs pinpoint specific moments in time. “jamcod,” for example, recalls the infamous 1998 show at the House of Blues in Los Angeles which led to the Jesus and Mary Chain’s dissolution. “Fucking up and then falling down but it punts me to the door / And I can’t see the ceiling ’cause I’m faced down on the floor,” Jim sings over a gliding psychedelic riff.

Other songs recall broad, vague moods. The sedated crawl of the claustrophobic “Chemical Animal” sounds exactly how you might imagine a song about inoculating yourself to hide from the outside world and yourself. “I was thinking back to those dark days of chemical dependency,” Jim said in a statement about the song, “when you fall so deep into that hole that everything you do is by instinct. The drugs are the driving force. The thing that gets you from a to b is whether you can score. It was a horrible way to live and I’m thankful I don’t live that way anymore. One effect is that it made me aware of how our brains, who we are, how we feel, and what we do, depend on our neural chemistry, a chemistry beyond our control.”

A key quality that has helped make the Jesus and Mary Chain one of the most enduring bands of the last 40-plus years is the brothers’ penchant for writing melodic hooks that shine like honey through darkness. “Girl 71,” which features the backing vocals of Rachel Conte, calls back to their poppiest gems. Halfway through the song, Jim has a change of heart: he turns from feeling hopeless to enjoying what he has, while he has it. “Girl, you’ve got nothing / You’ve got me, you’ve got nothing / We’ve got wine / But that wouldn’t last a day / Well, nothing does, so that’s okay,” he begins, before singing contentedly: “I’ve got you, we’ve got something / You’ve got me, we’ve got something / We’ve got love / And that’s gonna last a day / Another day, another day / We’re gonna take the time / Another day, another day / I can’t get by without you now.”

While there is plenty for fans of classic Jesus and Mary Chain to enjoy on Glasgow Eyes, including “Second of June,” which calls back to fan favourite “Sometimes Maybe,” the album proves that at this point in the band’s career, the Jesus and Mary Chain are more interesting when they explore terrain outside of the lashing noise-drenched jams they’re known for. On “Venal Joy,” the Jesus and Mary Chain tap into a softer strain of psychedelia, tunneling and rubbery. The boastful “American Joy” is another standout, featuring an uncharacteristic put-on snarl that doesn’t come off cartoonish.

On the other hand, some of these explorations are also Glasgow Eyes’ weakest moments. “Mediterranean X Film” juxtaposes plainspoken vocals with round instrumentation, a combo that doesn’t quite gel. Near the tail end of “Mediterranean X Film,” the song cuts from something resembling a flaccid experiment from the Strokes’ later discography to an airy passage from Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories. “Mediterranean X Film” is Glasgow Eyes’ most scattershot song, and it never quite lands. Meanwhile, “The Eagles and the Beatles” is a focused pop song. With cleaner production and a few more bells and whistles, like Queen-style handclaps, it would sound like a sports anthem.

Obviously, an album inspired by the past is going to contain callbacks, and that would have been the easy way out for a band with such a dedicated following like the Jesus and Mary Chain. Though Glasgow Eyes misses the mark at times, you have to appreciate that the band is still willing to get messy and play outside its sandbox. As Jim Reid sings, we should be grateful for what we have while we have it.

Pre-order Glasgow Eyes HERE.


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