Is there a greater opening line in popular music than “I walked forty seven miles of barbed wire, used a cobra snake for a neck tie.”? It’s literary equivalent is “We were around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold”. Both scream bad-ass. A hair-trigger,…
“But something about you felt like pain.
You were my sunny day rain,
You were the clouds in the sky,
You were the darkest sky.
But your lips spoke gold and honey,
That’s why I’m happy when it rains.
I’m happy when it pours.
Look at me enjoying something,
That feels like, feels like pain
To my brain.”—The Jesus and Mary Chain / “Happy When it Rains" lyrics
“Darklands” – The Jesus and Mary Chain (Words/music: Jim and William Reid, available on Darklands, Warner Brothers 1987)
It’s a strange endeavor to approach a band’s catalog when it’s complete (or, at least seems complete – who knows with the JAMC). There’s the compilation route – and the Jesus and Mary Chain have an excellent one titled 21 Singles that makes an incredible case for this band as a singles band – but in many ways a compilation feels like cheating. It almost seems too easy to fall in love with a band with all of their best songs immediately put in front of you, and sometimes it makes delving deeper into the catalogue harder. Then there’s the approach of asking for starting points. Sometimes this is quite useful, but it also demands that you consider the source as well. So when asking about the Jesus and Mary Chain, you’re likely going to be told to start with Psychocandy, and I’m not going to argue with that starting point. I will, however, admit that it’s not my favorite Jesus and Mary Chain album (and, given my run of songs over the last year and a half, that probably isn’t a shock). Based both on play count and gut instinct, Darklands comes out on top for me.
Many of my feelings about the Darklands album also explain why I love the title track. “Darklands” captures the Reid brothers at their most tuneful. I understand and respect the appeal of the earlier and more chaotic songs on Psychocandy, but I’m far more inclined to the gentle sweetness and tinges of melancholy in these songs. Of course, this is easy for me to say looking at their catalog as a whole, especially considering that I’ve never seen one of their loud, chaotic, and confrontational shows. Still, it’s hard to deny the charm in “Darklands,” whether it’s the gentle jangle or the way William Reid’s voice toes the line between gruff and brash and gently beautiful. It may be an outlier when looked at the band’s work overall, but it’s hard to deny a guitar jangle employed so perfectly.