Albums Of The Week

Jesus and Mary Chain retain knack for razor-sharp songwriting in their first new album in 19 years

(Above) American indie band Spoon comprise (from left) Alex Fischel, Britt Daniel, Jim Eno and Rob Pope.
(Above) American indie band Spoon comprise (from left) Alex Fischel, Britt Daniel, Jim Eno and Rob Pope.PHOTO: MATADOR RECORDS
Vocalist Jim Reid of The Jesus And Mary Chain.
Vocalist Jim Reid of The Jesus And Mary Chain.PHOTO: FRANCO TOH

The Jesus And Mary Chain clean up with a crisp album, while Spoon experiment with a dance-rock sensibility

Two years after Scottish rock stalwarts The Jesus And Mary Chain (JAMC) celebrated the 30th anniversary of their 1985 debut album Psychocandy - a landmark release in alternative rock lauded for its engaging meld of abrasive guitars and irresistible pop - they have released their first new album in 19 years.

In Damage And Joy, brothers Jim and William Reid clean up their act with a crisp album that retains their propensity for razor-sharp songwriting. That is the thing that hits you about the album - how clear the recording is, courtesy of producer Youth from post-punk elders Killing Joke.

It is a far cry from the muddied swirl of noise that marked their early releases and is certainly at odds with their reputation for putting on ramshackle live shows.

Their lyrics remain as caustic as ever, though.

  • DANCE ROCK/INDIE POP

    (Above) American indie band Spoon comprise (from left) Alex Fischel, Britt Daniel, Jim Eno and Rob Pope. (Left) Vocalist Jim Reid of The Jesus And Mary Chain.HOT THOUGHTS

    Spoon

    Matador

    4/5 stars

    ALTERNATIVE ROCK

    (Above) American indie band Spoon comprise (from left) Alex Fischel, Britt Daniel, Jim Eno and Rob Pope. (Left) Vocalist Jim Reid of The Jesus And Mary Chain.DAMAGE AND JOY

    The Jesus And Mary Chain

    ADA/Warner

    3.5/5 stars

"It's just like a grape in a bottle/ It's wine today but p*** tomorrow," Jim sings in that familiar, weary tone on opening track Amputation .

War On Peace, a gloomy yet absorbing ballad, sees him moaning about the slump that comes with the passing of time: "I once shone but now I'm old/Give my secrets up like gold/There's a fire beneath my feet/Lights the longest losing streak."

As with all good JAMC records, and like the new album title suggests, their charm lies in the way they balance darkness and light. The hooks and melodies are an antidote to the morose outlook and the dulcet singing from Jim's duet partners, who include Belle & Sebastian's Isobel Campbell and younger Reid sister Linda (aka Sister Vanilla), cuts through the glumness.

While the Scottish band tread familiar ground, American indie rock outfit Spoon find joy in exploring a new dance-rock sensibility in their ninth album, Hot Thoughts.

Amid swaggering rhythms and compelling grooves, the outfit led by Texan frontman Britt Daniel experiment with a whole array of adventurous sounds, all designed to move one's feet.

Opting to remain a quartet after long-time member and multiinstrumentalist Eric Harvey left the group earlier this year, the remaining members imbue the album with a palpable sense of liveliness and vitality, employing a gamut of sounds from heavy layers of synths and hand-claps to bells and percussive funk guitars.

"I've been down so long/Been down but now I gotta get lifted up," Daniel sings on top of post-disco grooves in Can I Sit Next To You.

"Let them build a wall around us/ I don't care, I'm gonna tear it down," he declares later in Tear It Down, a buoyant number intricately crafted with multiple guitar, synth and piano parts.

The mood is infectious and you discover something new with every listen.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 29, 2017, with the headline 'Exploring new sounds'. Print Edition | Subscribe