music review

Jesus and Mary Chain revisits debut LP

Ben Stas for The Boston Globe
The Jesus and Mary Chain performs at the House of Blues Tuesday night.

The world has had 30 years to hear “Psychocandy,” the Jesus and Mary Chain’s feedback-drenched, sugar-centered debut, which helped inform an entire subgenre of British postpunk. When the Scottish band ran through the 1985 album from start to finish Tuesday night at the House of Blues, it could have been simple nostalgia for a landmark record. But the volume and visceral attack that the group brought to the songs suddenly seemed necessary to appreciate them properly. It was hard not to get the impression that the audience was getting the full, intended effect of the complete album for the very first time.

The Jesus and Mary Chain certainly didn’t interrupt the sequence with chitchat; until his thank yous and goodnights before the last song, singer Jim Reid spoke exactly six words to the crowd for the “Psychocandy” portion of the concert. (“Ready?,” “Thank you,” and the title of “In a Hole,” to be specific.) Backlit and shrouded in fog, the band was little more than silhouettes against colored smoke, Reid’s body language slow and understated.

With songs that raided the Beach Boys and the girl-group era for inspiration, the result was like a surfside dance party for introverts, except for the sonic assault. “Just Like Honey” combined a Ronettes drum fanfare with a tactile sheet of ringing, distorted guitar, while a wave of sound seemed to rise up from behind the band and threatened to envelop the beachy “Never Understand.” The distortion created a distinct punch by emphasizing the highs of William Reid’s and Phil King’s guitars, rather than the more typical lows.


The band leaned into the ungodly fuzz of “In a Hole,” the ear-splitting feedback of “Reverence,” and the great, impossibly tense buildup to the end of “Some Candy Talking” as the guitars and drums hit every single beat together. The latter two songs came from a short opening set of post-“Psychocandy” material, placed first instead so the Jesus and Mary Chain could end with the album proper — all the better to preserve the buzz of the discordant scree of “It’s So Hard,” extended well beyond album length to push the noise further. It was the album’s full flowering, finally, three decades later.

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The Black Ryder’s gauzy washes of guitar and rippling distortion marked the band as a clear descendant of its tourmates. The group’s slow wooze coalesced nicely throughout its opening set.

The Jesus And Mary Chain

With The Black Ryder. At: House Of Blues, Tuesday.

Marc Hirsh can be reached at