It's a rare trick to uphold the sacred tenets of rock & roll while simultaneously reinventing them. But over the course of their 21 Singles
, compiled here, the Jesus and Mary Chain did just that.
When the first, "Upside Down", emerged on Creation in 1984, the template was set. The Reid brothers who anchored the band would take the idea of sullen, black-leather-clad rebellion to a darker and more inhospitable place than anyone before them. Even now, the early Mary Chain singles sound astounding, the way pop and the avant-garde are mangled together in them so beautifully. But 21 Singles goes far beyond these, through another 14 years of protean glumness, patchy albums and, fortunately, many excellent singles. It proves, once and for all, that the Mary Chain's forte was the three-minute pop thrill, the precisely calibrated jukebox hit. An uncanny number of them--"Some Candy Talking", "Sidewalking", "Reverence"-- remain among the very best of the past 20 years. And the more slack moments still have their uses: to render futile the entire careers of artless impersonators such as Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, for a start.
The Mary Chain's last two singles, from 1998, "I Hate Rock'n'Roll" and "I Love Rock'n'Roll", neatly close affairs: bitter and celebratory; consumed and confused by music and the impulse to make it, which has driven them for so long. This band were genius, and this is why.--John Mulvey