I came late to the Jesus & Mary Chain, mostly put off by the hordes of overly-earnest fans who worshipped at the altar of their greatness.  It wasn’t until someone put their wonderfully sarcastic version of ‘Surfin’ USA’ on a tape for me that I weakened and investigated further.  Now I do know it’s a capital offence amongst the JAMC faithful but I actually prefer Darklands to Psychocandy – it’s because of controversial views that like this that I hide behind the moniker 1537, if the JAMC-ites were ever to team up with the Kiss Army I’m in real trouble, stomped to death by platform-booted fire-breathing shock troopers, with various skinny guys with untidy hair look all doomed and wasted in the background.  I know all about the riots and the primitivism of Psychocandy, but Darklands just has a real place in my heart.

From the opening chords of ‘Darklands’ to the final kiss off of ‘About You’ this LP is all about the atmosphere, smoky, removed and gloomy, but shot through with a real sense of the exhilaration and electric charge, not necessarily of love, but of contact.  There are some great songs on Darklands, but the whole really is a lot greater than the sum of the parts.  I also find the LP pretty funny too, but I’m not sure if that’s just me, lines like ‘I’m as dead as a Christmas tree’ and ‘Unlike the mole / I’m not in a hole’ aren’t really meant to be taken seriously are they?  please not.  I do like to think that behind all their ‘making love on the edge of a knife’ cool the JAMC were having a bit of a giggle at it all too.

The two barnstorming tracks on Darklands are a real treat, ‘Happy When it rains’* and ‘April Skies’ encapsulate most of what I love about JAMC, they are both just so cool, they just reek of frenzied coupling with slightly deranged partners in leather jackets, in a storm, in a car; these songs would definitely wear shades at night (if they were people, rather than songs, obviously).  They also ram home, if you’ll excuse the expression, the fact that the foundations of all these tracks lie in cool 50’s rock and roll and that when, amped and hyped as it is here, there’s very little to touch it.

Fully prepared for Nine Million rainy Days
Fully prepared for Nine Million rainy Days

Rain plays a big part in this album, ‘Happy When it Rains’, ‘Nine Million Rainy Days’, references to ‘there’s something warm about the rain’ and ‘you and me / live our lives in the pouring rain’ in ‘About You’, the summer sky falling down in ‘Down on me’ – maybe it’s a Scottish thing, but my theory is that we’re firmly in the OEYM’s territory here.  Don’t tell me you didn’t study OEYM’s at school? it stands for Overly Earnest Young Males and I just made it up, but it works here.  ‘April Skies’ is virtually a manifesto,

and we tried so hard
and we looked so good
and we lived our lives in black
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

Essentially all is doomed and gloomy, let’s snatch what we can of love in the face of the uncaring world, whilst wearing black and, umm, have funny hair and big coats.  I don’t qualify for the Y in OEYM anymore, but I did when I first loved this LP and promptly signed up, why wouldn’t you?  it’s an enticing world to visit for a while and were I a bachelor (checks to make sure Mrs 1537 isn’t listening) I would keep this LP handy for seduction purposes; guaranteed.

99 Down (in the rain).


*1537’s recipe for Garbage; add 2 parts ‘Happy When it Rains’ to a generous helping of Curve and simmer in the production from JAMC Automatic.  Serve luke warm.

4 thoughts on “I’m as Dead as a Christmas Tree

  1. Is it weird to say that I could hear a ‘Born In The USA’ era Springsteen doing ‘April Skies’ and doing it well? Well, I said it anyways, regardless of weirdness.

    1. No I totally agree. It’s the guitar bit that goes De Darr-da-da just after the first verse. Great spot, Mr H! I expect a medley on your next release.

  2. I was one of those JAMC faithful and hereby promise to form no alliances with Kiss Armies, Phisheads, or Jerrys Kids. My complaint: JAMC never imported riots to my neighborhood (the near-rural nowhere in the center of the US near where a perfectly decent mountain turned out to have presidential faces). Psychocandy did change my musical world, but, really the difference between that and Darklands was just noise (or the lack of) and a little experience. Add tons of feedback to April Skies and it fits on Psychocandy. Actually, I’m glad they ditched the noise if only to prove that the underlying songs were pretty good for slow motion, depressed surf music.

    Your images make me wonder if you got a toxic copy, with the space suits and such. The rumor of heroine on the album cover (just made up moments ago) was entirely exaggerated, no risk of tactile high!

    1. I read that rumour! (About 2 minutes ago). It must be true then. I play this LP a lot, which made it quite difficult to write about.

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