the jesus and mary chain
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Holy Rollers
Jennifer Nine / Melody Maker
Ritz, Manchester

'I don't mind if I get broken/ I don't mind if I get fixed/ I don't mind if I'm not spoken to/I don't mind if I get kicks.' 'Snakedriver', that's how they start - First song. First principle.

Pick any shit town; there's always two. Two sullen kids, dressed in their own we-don't-wanna team colours - Teds, punks, goffs - just standing there. Monosyllabic. Unimpressed. Fronting bigtime, despite the potential kickings, the actual stares. Sometimes they grow up, give up, get out. The stubborn ones, though, keep at it; eventually, they sink into the scenery, no longer worth a stare or a kicking. They're just there.

That's yer Reid brothers. Sure, the analogy doesn't fit exactly; they weren't teenagers then or now, though boyishly cropped Jim seems to be getting younger, smiling (!) palely at us and waving an awkward hand as he leaves the stage. Sure, they're Accomplished Muscicians with an International Track Record and songwriting that triumphantly outgrew the steel-shearing feedback that was supposed to be the one-trick pony they'd ride out on. But there's still something in it: the shit town the Mary Chain don't wanna belong to, with its louts and pursed-lip matrons and steady wage packets, is probably the music biz. And if their best, shiniest song doesn't convince you - that song being the soaring, many-headed JAMC Pop Single, from 'Head on' and 'Happy When It Rains' to 'Girlfriend' and 'Sugar Ray' - their refusenik determination should.

Or the fronting bigtime. Their don't-touch forcefield: even stagedivers instinctively swerve around Jim. Their swaggering, dumb rock'n'rollese: 'hey hey', 'so c'mawwn baby', or the drawled 'I've got it/You've got it/She's got it' of 'Teenage Lust'. The way the opening song cuts off in abrupt, surging chaotic scribbles, sounding like the conclusion of anyone else's set. Too reflexively spiteful to ever be workaday.

It may have gotten slower - or maybe the early day's nerve-raddled buzzsaw guitar lent illusory speed to prowling, non-blues blues like 'Sidewalking'. It may be prettier now; an acoustic warmth cradles 'Everybody I Know', underlines the emotion Jim's voice used to nearly reveal. But there was always beauty in the hollow, black-on white noise of 'Just Like Honey', which tonight unfolds newborn-naked on that bathmat of fuzz, that vacuum-packed drum. And Mary Chain songs may have gotten more Classic Rock-guitared over the years, but not flabbier. Even the riffingest leads in 'The Perfect Crime' are played with a concise, faintly scornful precision.

And they've gotten no less greedy. Gimme, says the songs. Gimme what? Dunno, tell you later. Gimme gutter-obsessive, backlit trash; gimme mythical America - which may be why their messy-hair, sullen-boot cool stole North American hearts like like Blur never will - and gimme outrage-just-because, Jim yowling through the deathwish hagiography of Reverence like he doesn't want to miss a single barb.

In which light, 'I Hate Rock'n'Roll' - sourly, irresistibly catchy as William only intermittently bothers to sing over the wind-up guitars - leaps beyond the lyric's peevishness. If they really cared what the BBC wasn't doing for them, they'd be singing anything but this.

They're still on the corner in their army of two. Yeah, good on 'em, they're still there.

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