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Barrel Full of Munkis
Tim Harnett / Alternative Press
1998
The Jesus and Mary Chain Find Small-Label Sanctuary

"There seems to be an unhealthy disrespect for the musician in the music business," says the Jesus and Mary Chain's Jim Reid. "It's nice to get away from that crap."

Having gratefully split with the former Warner Bros. subsidiary American, the Chain have joined the ranks of Sub Pop in the U.S. and reunited with their original U.K. label, Creation. Their latest album, Munki, is among the cream of both labels' summer releases.

"It started with [Sub Pop] as part of [our] being kicked off Warner Bros., really," says Jim about the Mary Chain's involvement with the Seattle-based indie. "Things were being talked about as far as doing other majors and stuff like that. We just felt as if we'd been bummed already going through that system. We'd been swallowed by the majors, devoured and shat out the other end."

Jim and his brother, co-vocalist/guitarist William, prefer working within the indie labels' homespun approach. "It's like [working with] people with record collections that work for record labels. The thing you find with major labels is that you get people [that see the job as] a stepping stone to get a job in advertising or something like that."

Yet with the shackles on their musical freedom broken, are the Reids still bitter toward the music industry? Munki presents a curious answer to this question, beginning with a track written by William, "I Hate Rock and Roll," and ending with "I Love Rock and Roll," written by Jim. The singer feels that the bookended sentiments were necessary to facilitate the big picture.

"William wrote his song a couple of years ago out of sheer frustration with the kind of crap we have to deal with in the music business," says Jim. "Everything he said in that song makes a valid point. Then I wrote 'I Love Rock and Roll' because I thought it left [Munki] kind of negative - I felt it was only half the story. The business end of music can be quite uncomfortable, but you have to remember that I'm sitting in a hotel in New York City because of rock and roll music. At the end of it all, we are just huge music fans."

Three years after the Chain's self-produced 1994 album Stoned & Dethroned, longtime fans will rediscover some of the band's hallmarks on Munki - the buzzing vitrol of Psychocandy, the echoing melancholy melodies of Darklands, the pop fury of Automatic. The recording building up to Munki demonstrate the band's long-standing quest to create perfect pop music.

"When we used to talk about the idea of a perfect pop song, that was in the old naive days, really," says Jim. "There's no such thing as perfect anything, but you can try. It's like running around trying to catch a fucking helicopter with a pair of tweezers."

So, Jim, what does rock and roll need now more than ever?

"Rock and Roll needs it's modern day Velvet Underground," he says. "There's nobody doing that kind of rock-and-roll subversion anymore. It's retreading that same sort of well-trodden ground, really. I think it needs someone to come along and redefine what's important about rock music."

The band - which also incudes guitarist Ben Lurie, former Lush bassist Phil King and former Gun Club/Clock DVA drummer Nick Sanderson - will make a few short trips to America between European festival appearances. The Chain's early days of shambolic 20-minute sets and the riots that seemed to punctuate every one of them have long since ended. When asked what he thinks of the idea of "maturing," Jim is quite lucid.

"I've got no problem with it," he says. "I just don't want to do anything that doesn't feel dignified. Getting old is weird process. If you feel good about what you're doing, then nothing else matters."

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