Following `Honey's Dead' and the Rollercoaster tour with Dinosaur Jr, Blur & My Bloody Valentine, the Mary Chain delivered the `Snakedriver' and the relative to `Barbed Wire Kisses', the b-sides collection `The Sound of Speed.' The follow-up proper to `Honey's Dead' was this collection which pretty much stiffed in the era when Britpop was on the rise. It would be their last album on Blanco Y Negro/Warners prior to getting dropped, the band releasing their final album `Munki' on Creation in 1997.
The problem with the Mary Chain was the fact their debut `Psychocandy' was untopabble, some bands release fantastic debuts and just can't reach the peak again - Television, Wu-Tang Clan, The Pixies, The House of Love, Elastica, Gang of Four, Adam & the Ants, The Stone Roses...it happens! `Stoned & Dethroned' is probably the album `Darklands' should have been, the band were rumoured at times to be working on an acoustic album, then a record with guest singers like Scott Walker...this was the result.
Like a lot of unplugged-stuff in the 1990s, it wasn't quite acoustic, the Reid brothers recording with bassist Ben Lurie and drummer Steve Monti (was he in the original line-up of Curve?). As such it sounds like a blend of the Mary Chain, baggy and alt-country - a sound which has dated surprisingly well...I think this is their best album after `Psychocandy.' The blend of the Velvets-Stooges-MC5 template the Mary Chain worked from with country inflections suggests this is a primary work of alt-country and should perhaps be considered alongside bands like Uncle Tupelo, Whiskeytown, Nikki Sudden's solo work (RIP), & Wilco. Brakes have covered `Sometimes Always' from it on their enjoyable debut album, while the acoustic/alt-country directions of the Brian Jonestown Massacre evident on `Thank God for Mental Illness', `Bringing It All Back Home Again' and `We Are the Radio' are apparent here.
The seventeen tracks are all enjoyable, the Reid brothers taking turns to sing and predating the direction of Primal Scream at present by a good decade. The Mary Chain are one of those bands whose bad stuff is still quite listenable. Not really a dud here, there are some classics - `Hole' is fantastic, despite the fact its lyrics are repetitive (1985's `In a Hole') and that it sounds quite a lot like `Heat' - the version of `Teenage Lust' currently used in a beer-advert on TV! Opener `Dirty Water' sounds like a baggy Stones, `What the World is Waiting For' circa `Let It Bleed'; while `God Help Me' has a very suitable lead vocal from the great Pogue Shane MacGowan. The single `Sometimes Always' is the greatest song here, a duet between Mazzy Star's Hope Sandoval (then paramour of William Reid) and Jim Reid it sounds like a scuzzy update on Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra, - any fan of Calexico should love it! `Stoned and Dethroned' has aged well and along with `Psychocandy', I think it's the pick of the current reissues of the Jesus and Mary Chain.
I don't feel that this album is so much a drastic shift in The Jesus and Mary Chain's sound - there's always been songs that reflect the laid-back, slighty melancholic/slightly optimistic sound that this album exudes - "Drop", "Good For My Soul", "About You", to name but a few. Having said that, it is very different from their feedback-riddled debut, but so are all their albums post-Psychocandy. A general unpretentious sound and lyrics, and soft tuneful optimism make this my favourite Jesus and Mary Chain album. If you love Psychocandy, but find the feedback oppresive at times, and think that Sidewalking and Reverence were a step too far, I very much recommend this.
This is a drastic shift for the Mary Chain, ditching feedback and great sleazy stadium anthems for a lighter, more acoustic based sound. This works brilliantly in places, I love the pretty Sometimes Always and the melody in Dirty Water, and the seemingly solemn Save Me and Everybody I Know, and Between Us sounds great to me! But at 17 tracks (despite each song being fairly well compressed) the formula seems to wear slightly thin and a lot of the songs end up sounding very, very similar. On the whole the album seems rather unspectacular, each song follows the pattern of the last one, you won't find too many surprises on this one, which is a shame for the Mary Chain are so capable with all kinds of song types! :( Also the vocals sound disappointingly croaky and tired, and low in the mix compared to the music. This ain't the Mary Chain that I was used to on their 3 80's studio CDs, but I sure hope they return to their usual fantastic musicianship on the albums I have yet to hear :) I just feel a bit more effort could've been put into this one, it has potential to be fantastic, but unfortunately it doesn't quite make it. Slightly disappointing :( but as said, more than a couple of redeeming moments.
This album has been widely condemned by critics as the start of the Mary Chain's decline. It certainly marked the point at which the band strayed furthest from its original blueprint of feedback, distortion and pile-driver drums but many of the ingredients that originally made the band interesting and enjoyable (let's face it they never achieved anything approaching greatness) are still here most notably the lazy, drawled vocals, the laid back approach to the songs and the attitude we first encountered on "Some Candy Talking". Critics seemed surprised at the decision of the band to adopt a kind of lazed-out, hazy americana sound as though those early experiments with surf culture had been forgotten but in many ways this provided the perfect foil to the band's attitude and in Hope Sandoval the Reids found a vocalist whose delivery matched Jim's in its laid-back yet intense style. The excellent "Sometimes Always" is the highpoint of this album and fans of Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan's recent albums will find plenty to enjoy in this duet.
Elsewhere the screaming feedback is replaced by beautifully recorded acoustic guitar, much subtler drums and a lighter, airier sound which allows the songs to breathe in a way that the intense and claustrophobic material on earlier albums deliberately did not. In achieving this the songs evoke the wide open spaces of the United States in ways that many American artists have failed to achieve. Early listens will reveal most of this album's pleasures and longevity is not its strong points but it will certainly provide enjoyment and may surprise many who thought that JAMC were just about walls of noise.