the jesus and mary chain
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John Anson Ford Theater, Oct. 5 1988
Gregg Araki /
Had this weird dream a few nights ago. It involved this eerily lit-up castle hacienda buried in a deep, dark, Freudian forest; there were all these flocks of trendoids and a bunch of surprisingly normal-looking people - even some faces that I knew. And this band, my favorite band, swathed in fog and feedback, barely visible in these queasy garish lights, glimpsed in snatches between the heads and shoulders of the somnambulistic crowd. At the beginning, there were sqweaming-KROQ-meemies shrieking at every burst of smoke or familiar chord, but the intensity of their night-piercing screams for this new Fab Four (okay, Five onstage) soon dissipated. The band played on until they decided they were finished, and then everybody went home.

"Boring," one disgruntled black-leather teeny-biker mumbled to his companion as the Mopey Moptops pummeled their way through their angst-laden hits. But what was he expecting, really? The hyperactive bombast of Brooce Springsteen (ever notice what his initials spell out?) or the bogus "triumphant" uplift of U2? The Jesus & Mary Chain are anti-"Rock&Roll (dude)," they're anti-entertainment, they're so post-post-punk that they're anti-punk too. There wasn't the typical "Slam Pit" at this show, since the Chain are like a black hole, literally exorcising the spunk out of the skinheads in the crowd. Unlike the traditional Rock Experience, they're de-energizing - fuck, they're just plain depressing, that's all.

One kid in a Bauhaus T-shirt next to me was so bummed out that he spent the whole concert slouched in his seat, where he could only see the designer-ripped jeans of the people standing on their chairs in front of him. Vocalist Jim Reid was so overcome with the Meaningless of Existance that he frequently had to just sit on the stage and whine and moan from there for a while. He and his mates in misery aren't out to please us, aren't going, "Look at me, look at me! Partay hearty! Have fun, you idiots!" They really don't give a shit. A J&M Chain concert is then what you make of it. You have to work, you have to listen, you have to participate actively instead of just sitting back and having it wanked off for you. The ironic thing about this sort of Brechtian distance, this anti-emotional strategy employed by the Reid Bros. & Crew, is that the music is genuinly moving, tender, very touching. It's this tension, I think, between alienation and engagement, between feeling and hiding behind a wall of feedback and attitude, that makes the Jesus & Mary Chain one of the most pertinent, intriguing and significant bands in this fucked-up age.

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