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4.5 out of 5 stars
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on 20 May 2004
Even though anything and everything that the Reid brothers produce will be forever over shadowed by their 1986 debut album "Psycho Candy", I feel that they went one better with the 1987 follow up "Dark Lands".
Even though "Psycho Candy" was a great album, the song writing tended to get lost underneath the impenetratable sheets of feedback that were so central to the album's sound. There are no such problems on "Dark Lands", the dissonant, Sonic Youth-style guitar noise that was so prevelant on "Psycho Candy" is largely absent, allowing the Reid's love of the melodic and gift for melody to shine through. Their debt to the Velvet Underground is not as over bearing as it was on "Psycho Candy", and the Velvet Underground influences on "Dark Lands" hark back to songs like "Sunday Morning" and "There She Goes Again" rather than the primal, proto-punk noise of "White Light/White Heat". On this album, the Reid brothers draw from a wider range of influences and this is immediately apparent from the melodic opening of the lead, title track. The song "Dark Lands" is driven by a melodic bass line and acoustic guitar on the verses before exploding into a melodic, but noisy and distorted, guitar-driven chorus. It reveals a greater understanding of melody than most of "Psycho Candy" did, and the chorus hangs around dead pan delivery of "do, do, do, dooh", similar to Lou Reed's "Walk on the Wild Side".
Far from all sounding the same, as "Psycho Candy" did, "Dark Lands" sounds distinctly different from track to track. "Deep One Perfect Morning" sounds very much like early period Velvet Underground, and "Nine Million Rainy Days" laces a poppy melody with freeze dried, gothic vocals and a dark, brooding backing track. It is this diversity of influences that makes "Dark Lands" more interesting than "Psycho Candy" or any of their other albums for that matter. However, it is still possible to trace this album back to "Psycho Candy", with "Fall" sounding like "Psycho Candy" would have done without all those extra layers of feedback.
Lyrically, most of the songs are about love but not in the traditional sense. It is a kind of love were the people involved know that it will all end in tears and know that they don't deserve one another. A very gothic take on a traditional song writers topic. Like the music, the vocal melodies on this album are not as indebted to the Velvet Underground as they were on "Psycho Candy", with the melody to "Fall" sounding very much like REM during their IRS years. The singles "April Skies" and "Happy When it Rains" are quintessential '80s indie songs, the former a downbeat, world weary pop song that comes across as what Tears For Fears would have sounded like if they had traded in their synthesizers for guitars, and the latter is a catchy upbeat pop song that lies somewhere between the melodic noise of the Pixies and the jangly guitar pop of the Smiths and the Wedding Present.
So there you go. I am someone who is pretty difficult to please and doesn't give out 5 star reviews that often any more. I used to, and so a lot of my older reviews mean little to nothing... but this is no such review. "Dark Lands" is the best record the Jesus & Mary Chain ever released, not as noisy as "Psycho Candy" and not as dance influenced as "Honey's Dead". Buy it if you want to hear a great collection of songs that are interesting but conventional, loud but melodic and clever but simple... you could do a lot worse!
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on 18 October 2008
I bought this when it originally came out on cassette. It must be one of my most played albums ever. I cant quite see why the comparisons between this and the debut album have to polarise opinion so much. Personally I love the melody and the lyrics on this album whilst the buzz saw guitars are still a prescence if more accessible than on PyscoCandy. And I really did 'live my life in black' back then though the album is still contempary and has survived the years well.
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on 28 November 2012
As I said in my review of "Automatic" I came to JMC via The Raveonettes and "21 Singles" and off that cd my favourite tracks were to be found on "Darklands" and "Automatic". I had no hesitation in giving "Automatic" 5 stars. So why 4 stars here. This is a wonderfully melodic cd with a big sound and some great crashing cords fronted by some excellent vocals. At the same time it seems to have distilled influences from Bowie, Lou Read, The Rolling Stones very remotely in track 5, The Beach Boys and dare I say it Simple Minds. And for those reasons I dont think this is sufficiently unique to make it a real stand out 5 star classic. But having said that it is still well worth the purchase
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on 30 March 2005
Although not as influential, 'Darklands' sounds considerably less dated than its more acclaimed predecessor, 'Psychocandy.' Shorn of their trademark feedback, the melodies are what really shine through on these songs. Sure, the influences are clearly detectable - Beach Boys, Velvet Underground, Stooges - but with just enough of a modern twist to refute the claim of mere imitation.
The first two singles, 'April Skies' and 'Happy When It Rains', are cut from the same cloth - irresistible, chugging rock songs with memorable hooks.
'Deep One Perfect Morning' nods to Johnny Cash, a good 10 years before he became a fashionable name to drop. 'Cherry Came Too' is the best song Brian Wilson never wrote, and 'Fall' will delight anyone who thinks 'I Wanna Be Your Dog' by The Stooges is one of the best rock'n'roll songs ever.
William Reid takes over vocal duties for 3 of the slower songs on the album - the elegant 'Darklands', the epic miserablism of 'Nine Million Rainy Days' and 'On The Wall', to my mind the only duff track on the album.
The album concludes with one of the Reids' warm, acoustic ballads, 'About You.'
I still regularly play this album almost 20 years after it was released. It's an object lesson in how to make a timeless guitar record.
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on 1 March 2013
This is a great pop record both in terms of its musical and lyrical content. If you are a connoisseur of pop then you must own this fine album.

In my opinion this record is the natural evolution of the sound contained within their debut. Sure the group's 'trademark' feedback has been replaced with a cleaner guitar sound that betrays the brother's love for Americana but the substantive content remains the same - solid song writing, strong melodies and pure pop sensibility. There is a slight shift in subject matter, with the brothers taking a tighter focus upon lost, or misplaced love, and feelings of despair and angst. On the surface rather gloomy subject matter but in reality the staple diet for quality pop songs since the dawn of vinyl.

"April Skies", "Happy when it rains" and "Nine million rainy days" are all perfect break-up pop songs that still hit the right spot (somewhere dead centre of your heart) over twenty years after their original release.

Fortunately, the prospect is not all gloomy. Tracks like "Cherry Came Too" and "About you" point towards potentially happier times ahead for the listener, providing a useful balance to this record that is missing from their earlier (but still excellent) work "Psychocandy".

In a funny sort of way the lyrical qualities of the songs contained within this album are, in my humble opinion, just as good as anything that came out of the Brill Building back in the golden age of pop. There is a genuine sense of empathy and engagement between the band and the listener throughout this record - teenage listeners take note, this record remains relevant to you. Recommended for nostalgic curmudgeons and heartbroken teens alike.
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on 8 April 2016
A lot of listeners say they are disappointed with this album. I really like it as it reveals the songs behind the noise that covered Psycocandy. All of their albums are packed with great sounds but who would want them all to be the same?. Lots of great extras with radio sessions,outtakes and all those tracks from singles not on the original album.
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on 23 May 2014
Not as edgy or groundbreaking as the seminal 'Psycho Candy' but an impressive side-step into a mellower but equally compelling sound. Influence of VU abounds and there are some of the most uplifting songs the J&MC ever committed to record. Impossible not to smile dancing along to April Skies and Nine Million Rainy Days is awesome. They had a really sexy sound going on at this point but there's an ethereal beauty to it as well. Damn - maybe I prefer it to 'Psycho Candy'!
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on 13 July 2006
Parkes of Worchester: Wrong on so many levels. The Mary Chain were (and still are) criminally overlooked for not sticking by the same Psychocandy formula and that review sums up this attitude to a tee. Much more than a retro album, this album oozes quality. The three singles speak for themselves but in every other track on the album, a lush beauty lies beneath the surface. Dark and soul searching, this isn't an album that will necassarily find your happy place. Each Mary Chain album has it's own sound, own mood, own attitude. This is one for those cold, wet September Sundays. Just try playing this at 5 in the morning, driving through half lit suburban streets.
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on 15 November 1999
This album is really, really good! This is not like any of the other Jesus and Mary Chain albums (I also bought Automatic and Barbed Wire Kisses). It is much more mainstream as a whole, and will appeal to a much wider audience. I find the other albums a little too "dark" for my everyday taste, and usually listen to them when I'm feeling pretty sombre. Darklands is different. It's an everyday, pump me up type of album. I absolutely love "April Skies" and "About You". They're different in that "About You" is slow and sentimental while "April Skies" picks up the beat a bit. "Happy When it Rains" and "Fall" are more like their other albums, a little darker with loud background "noise", but they're enjoyable. Overall, a great album.
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on 31 May 2015
Let me just start by saying these reissues sound fantastic, Beautiful work remastering this classic and timeless piece of music from half speed master tapes, these reissues have never sounded better. From a content point of view, simply put music form this era does not get any better. To my ears this album does not show its age and you can hear all the influences this great band have had on many great bands that have followed up to the present day. If you are looking for a starting point for JAMC this is a good place to start as is the groundbreaking debut album Psychocandy. It is however such a shame, as many people have pointed out that the quality control on the pressings was not much better as i have now purchased the first four albums from the Demon reissues and all of them have had the finger marks on the vinyls and no matter how many cleans i give these records the marks remain. This does not seem to have an impact on the sound but leaves a bit of disappointment where there should be only joy
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