The Jesus & Mary Chain
The big story on the new Jesus & Mary Chain record, Munki, is that their long-time label Warner Brothers dropped them because the album was “unreleasable.” Thankfully, their new label, Sub Pop [partly owned by Warner Bros. — Ed.], didn’t agree. After hearing Munki, I have to wonder what flavor of crack the execs at Warner are smoking these days! Munki is easily one of the Mary Chain’s best records, and I don’t know how anyone could think otherwise.
The album opens with the great “I Love Rock N’ Roll,” a fast and hard tune in the tradition of “Head On,” complete with the Mary Chain’s first use of horns. The opener may praise the virtues of rock, but the dissonant, feedback-laden closer, “I Hate Rock N’ Roll,” rocks harder and with much more venom, as it decries the industry, “I love MTV, I love it when they’re shitting on me.” A lot of the songs evoke the band’s early work. “Supertramp,” the “April Skies”-like “I Can’t Find the Time for Times,” “Man on the Moon,” and “Birthday,” especially, fill that bill, with a fuzzy guitar sound and plenty of tasty feedback. Elsewhere, as on the aforementioned “I Love Rock N’ Roll,” they have more of the hard-rocking feel of later work. “Stardust Remedy” and “Virtually Unreal” are more prime examples of this feel. The best stuff, to me though, is a synthesis of the styles. “Fizzy” is the best example of this, combining the dissonance with a driving beat, a melodic guitar solo, and some perversely-catchy lyrics (“Elvis lives, and Bob Dylan’s dead, and OJ’s wife’s come back from the dead”). There’s a lot of stretching, too. The catchy, Sonic Youth-like “Moe Tucker,” with guest vocals from Jim & William Reid’s sister Linda (a.k.a. Sister Vanilla), is one of my favorite songs on the record – it sticks to my brain quite nicely. A second duet with Mazzy Star’s Hope Sandoval, “Perfume,” comes really close to trip hop, while retaining the signature Mary Chain feel. “Cracking Up” sounds like a train crash involving Killing Joke and Primal Scream, while “Never Understood” is a simple, beautiful acoustic ballad with a tasty electric sheen in the middle.
All in all, though, there’s something for just about anyone on Munki. It’s a great album to listen to on headphones, or to share with the neighbors cranked all the way up to 11. I hope it sells a million copies and the idiots at Warner that rejected it lose their jobs as a result. Sub Pop Records, PO Box 20645, Seattle, WA, 98102