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Caught by the Fuzz: The Jesus and Mary Chain live in London

14 March 2016, 16:30 | Written by Chris Shipman

"Music should come crashing out of your speakers and grab you". So opined the legendary Lou Reed. It’s a mantra which fuzz rock pioneers The Jesus and Mary Chain clearly took to heart, fusing the art rock of Reed’s Velvet Underground with the direct urgency of punk, whacking the volume up and becoming one of the most influential indie rock acts of the 1980s.

In their heyday, the band were synonymous with chaos – rough edged Scots who bated the tabloids with tumultuous live shows and spawned a brief moral panic. Fast forward thirty-something years and post-reformation, age has rounded off the edges. They’re still deafeningly loud, but with a self-assurance reflective of comfortable middle age. Where once going to a JAMC show meant risking having your head kicked in, it’s now a decidedly calmer affair. That said, this is no mere nostalgia trip. The band have always had a vitality and urgency, and while this is dialed down, it’s still unmistakably there in tonight’s performance.

It comes as no surprise that tonight’s biggest cheer comes at the now iconic intro drumbeat of “Just Like Honey”, the sparse snare-and-high-hat knell that precedes one of all indie rock’s most deliciously deranged guitar melodies, drenched in distortion and wrung out achingly by lead guitarist William Reid. It’s the tune that introduced the band to a new generation in the early noughties, when Sofia Coppola used it to soundtrack the final scene of Lost in Translation and the band treat it with the reverence that such a track deserves, singer Jim Reid perfectly on point in his intonations of the song’s pained lyrics through waves of reverb.

“Just Like Honey” is far from the only highlight though and tonight’s set sees the band gallop through cuts from all their studio albums as a precursor to their impending new LP, the first from the band since 1998. The sludgy drive of “April Skies” from Darklands lands smartly, as does Automatic’s “Blues From A Gun”. There’s relatively new material too, in the shape of “All Things Must Pass” – the only track they’ve released since reforming in 2007.

It’s notable that a band so famed for their liberal use of noise on the whole eschew unrestrained feedback. There are fits and starts from the stack of Orange amplifiers that loom over the band, but they’re always controlled - gone are the frenzied squeals that dominated the band’s early records and performances.

Three decades on from their formation, The Jesus and Mary Chain remain a compelling live act and tonight serve up a first-class performance. In short, they’re indie rock demi-gods who we can all believe in.

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