On this date in 1985, the Jesus and Mary Chain released their eponymous debut album, Psychocandy.
Psychocandy is considered one of the key records in what became shoegaze, but the band’s greatest contribution to the movement may have been to make walls of guitar racket seem sensual and feminine. Despite the consistently maxed-out distortion, Psychocandy seems much more pop than rock, more Beach Boys and girl groups than Stooges or Suicide (hey, not one, but two songs use the “Be My Baby” drum intro, for Ronette’s sake!).
Before the JAMC came along, many people still assumed that in order to make aggressive, energetic noises, the members of rock bands had to actually move around, do guitar windmills, and look engaged. Jim and William Reid & Bobby Gillespie (yes, that one), did not like this situation, because those poses tended to be either uncool or boring, and often made one look like a complete twat.
But after a brief scientific study of their equipment, it came to the JAMC’s attention that electric guitars, when paired with high amplifier volume and harmonic distortion, could create feedback, thereby producing aggressive noises mostly on their own, and freeing their actual players to stand around looking half dead, depressed, and generally too contemptuous and disgusted to really bother playing; all of which seemed, in 1985 and in the particular case of the JAMC, totally super awesome.
Rolling Stone praised the JAMC as “a perfect recombinant of every Edge city outlaw ethic ever espoused in rock.” In 2012, Psychocandy was ranked number 269 on Rolling Stone’s The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. Slant Magazine listed the album at number 38 in its Best Albums of the 1980s, saying: “Shaping fuzz into a potent, tactile instrument, the JAMC helped established the style of distortion-laden fogginess that would eventually become the foundation for shoegaze.” PopMatters included Psychocandy in their list of the 12 Essential 1980s Alternative Rock Albums stating: “It may still be the only noise pop LP anyone ever really needs to own.”
Happy 36th anniversary, Psychocandy!
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