Yes, Psychocandy is far and away the Jesus and Mary Chain’s best album; there’s no disputing that. None of the records Jim and William Reid have put out in the nearly 30 years since that LP’s release have quite matched that record’s almost primitive appeal, a result of its jarring yet alluring juxtaposition of honey-sweet melodies and a nigh-unyielding cacophonous roar of white noise. It’s been argued that the band’s creative downfall has been its efforts to tidy itself out, actions which completely miss the point of what’s appealing about its best music.
On its surface, the 1989 single “Head On” shouldn’t be my favorite Mary Chain number. The lack of layers of feedback reveal the band is peddling a rather straightforward arrangement; the most noticeable bursts of guitar noise are in the form of a ‘50s-style riff William Reid trots out between verses. More unpalatable to my sensibilities is the song’s reliance on synth bass and a drum machine, utilized to make up for the Reids’ lack of a full group at that stage. The synthetic rhythmic section robs the Mary Chain of much-needed thrust, and though I’m partial to dated-sounding synth bass in choice contexts, the most unflattering task it can be made to do in my opinion is to pound out strict root-note eighth notes. Which is exactly what happens on this track.