Don’t Worry, Be Happy
It was a sad (if not altogether unexpected) day when the Reid Brothers finally found that they could no longer bear to work together. Sad because as The Jesus & Mary Chain, Jim and William Reid made some of the most influential and important music of the last 20 years, brilliant pieces of feedback-drenched, dark, guitar driven sounds that nevertheless had a strange hook, an inexplicably pop center to it all. I once referred to The Ramones as “a photo-negative of The Beach Boys,” but in a different way, that’s what J*A*M*C were, too — the guys that would wear black turtlenecks to the beach and do twisted covers of “Surfin’ USA” and “Surf City” (which they retitled “Kill Surf City”). Perfect moments of music like “April Skies,” “Head On,” and “Happy When It Rains” (that last inexplicably being used to sell cars right now, as Madison Avenue co-opts ever more of Gen-X’s music) ensure the band will always be remembered, but it’s a shame the Reids won’t be making music together any longer. As I said, though, it’s not a real surprise, as Jim and William’s relationship was publicly more contentious than the more-hyped shenanigans of the brothers Gallagher (Oasis) and Robinson (The Black Crowes), though not as bad as that of the brothers Ashton (Gene Loves Jezebel — take yer pick of which version). In the long run, though, the Reids were the most talented, and are bound to be better remembered.
But though the Reids are no longer together, at least one of the brothers is still making great music. Taking with him long-time J*A*M*C guitarist Ben Lurie, and joining forces with The Gun Club’s Nick Sanderson and Romi Mori, Jim Reid has formed Freeheat, and their debut EP, Don’t Worry, Be Happy, takes up where J*A*M*C left off, sunny title to the contrary. True, the four songs here do tend to reflect J*A*M*C’s more upbeat side (yes, they had one!), but the hallmarks that made J*A*M*C so great are here in spades. Take the lead track, for example: “Two Of Us” is a fantastic duet between Reid and Mori that sounds a lot like a less glossy, more energetic version of “Sometimes Always,” the Chain’s great duet with Mazzy Star’s Hope Sandoval. The grinding, slightly sleazy “Facing Up To the Facts” could have been at home on Barbed Wire Kisses, while “Shine On Little Star” will certainly bring back memories of Darklands.
But then, perhaps it’s unsurprising that the first three tracks are so reminiscent of the best J*A*M*C stuff, considering that Reid wrote the first two, and Lurie the third. Perhaps the best indication of where the band’s going, then, is the fourth track, “Nobody’s Gonna Trip My Wire,” which was written by the full band. A driving rocker aflutter with spacey electronics, it marks the biggest departure from the signature J*A*M*C sound — not leaving it behind, but definitely taking it in new, interesting directions.
And that’s where the EP leaves you, over too soon, and chomping at the bit for more. Perhaps its title, then, is apt — mourn the loss of the J*A*M*C no more, and Don’t Worry, Be Happy, because Freeheat is here to keep things alive, vibrant, and very interesting, indeed.