The Jesus and Mary Chain 2024
Photo: Mel Butler / Force Field PR

The Jesus and Mary Chain Become Self-Referential

On Glasgow Eyes, the Jesus and Mary Chain are comfortable settling in and stretching out a bit. They will never not be cool—just maybe not required listening.

Glasgow Eyes
The Jesus and Mary Chain
Fuzz Club
22 March 2024

When the Jesus and Mary Chain released Damage and Joy (2017), the biggest surprise was not that they were recording new music; it was that they had reformed as a band a decade ago and were only now releasing an album. Of course, the infighting between brothers Jim and William Reid that led to their split in 1999 might have suggested that the group were all but done, not unlike how we view Oasis today. However, a family reunion with their sister, Linda, on the Sister Vanilla record led to the band reforming and at least playing shows again.

Now, a quarter century after the end of their first period, we have the next installment in the Jesus and Mary Chain saga. Similar to Damage and Joy, Glasgow Eyes is a Reid brothers’ effort, down to the artwork (contributed by William). Jim and William trade vocals on many tracks and deploy multiple instruments throughout. The centerpiece of their sound remains their fuzzed-out guitars and swirling synthesizers, which nobody can replicate. 

Glasgow Eyes weaves in and out of tried and true themes but embarks upon new sonic explorations. The Jesus and Mary Chain dig deeper into the crate with influences from the likes of Suicide, Kraftwerk, and Wire. Even with the assimilation of new inspirations, it’s the often on-the-nose references to their classic sound that give the album grounding. Unfortunately, those touchpoints are limited and somewhat uneven, which makes Glasgow Eyes a decent—albeit not essential—addition to their superior catalog.

The first single and centerpiece of the album is “jamcod”. With an unambiguous bassline and molten electronics, “jamcod” features the straightforward sneers of Jim Reid, “Tears are what you want / Tears are what you got”, and the repeated “J-A-M-C-O-D” refrain over a cacophony of distortion. This is the Jesus and Mary Chain that we have come to know and love. It begs the question, is it possible to overdo—perhaps overdose on—their sound? Not likely.

The Jesus and Mary Chain take us back to those golden days in certain moments. “Venal Joy” produces an aural helix, locking disaffected listeners into a groove. The moral of the story is we are all disaffected. Jim Reid sings, “You got a kingdom come and cold blood / You don’t have a future.” Despite being shot out of the gates, it eventually crumbles under its own weight.

“Mediterranean X Film” delivers a driving groove that exudes Cold War paranoia a la Wire’s The Ideal Copy. In perfect time and true to form, William Reid sings, “It looks like I love everyone.” The Timex beeps in the background become a bit distracting (same with “Girl 71”), even if it matches the espionage theme. To that end, some of their strongest tracks here are near misses.

The Jesus and Mary Chain have the charisma to make the uncool things seem cool, but on “The Eagles and the Beatles”, the affectation can’t cover how week it all feels, and that’s before the hand claps. Jim Reid sings, “I was born Bob Dylan / I could love the Beatles / I got late Sex Pistols / I got drunk on crystals,” whatever that means. The long and short of it is that they have “been rollin’ with the Stones”, them and countless other musicians.

Similar to Pixies, the Jesus and Mary Chain’s output in the late 1980s and early 1990s has been so transformational that their best moments will be viewed in light of their legacy. These groups now exist as indie and alternative rock institutions. They are all too aware that the next Psychocandy or Doolittle will not be coming from a band 40 years into their career. 

On Glasgow Eyes, the Jesus and Mary Chain are comfortable settling in and stretching out a bit. They still enter the studio with the same zeal, and for that, we can be grateful. No matter how far removed from their crimped-out days, they will never not be cool—just maybe not required listening.

RATING 7 / 10