the jesus and mary chain
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Bible Belter!
Danny Kelly / NME
London Electric Ballroom

The Mary Chain's past, now disowned, goes before them. It attracts the seekers of cheap thrills, the hopefully hip, the easily (mis)led and the marginally psychotic. A year after the Apocalypse Now overkill and six months on from the year's best 45, it really ought to be different.

A 40 minute wait - Stars! - and they're on. Or onish. Hart and Gillespie are erect, alert, ready. Reid Major lies prone for guitaring purposes, while his junior, silhouetted against the scab-red lights, preceeds the revelry with a half-hearted attack on the stage flooring with his microphone. The opening salvo's vocals are inaudible.

Up to a point, this band knows what it's doing. The collective slouch is expertly, extravagantly, studied. The music is the polar opposite.

For 20 minutes of the components of The Noise function. Gillespie is wondrously, militarily, propulsive, Hart a throbbing staple, Reid a distracted, gnawing ache and Reid Minor a writhing, unstrung puppet. When it blurs, The Noise is a shambolic screech, a din beying theoretical deference or sonic saving grace.

The Mary Chain's live performances are not recitals. Sometimes they play/produce/spew irredeemable kindergarten rubbish-by-numbers.

But when the four elements gyrate threateningly close to one another - something occurs beyond mere musical science or alchemy. The pulsebeat, the very molecular structure, of this hideously mutated monster we hopelessly tag Rock is mercilessly stripped of the layers of its acquired, habitual, glamour and 'classicism' (witless competence). It's laid bare, brutally magnified, and its ancient, irrational, power blazes blindingly from the stage, like a new sun.

Sometimes, unfathomably, they get it right, or as right as they dare, and they're huge, perfect and oddly loveable. In a world where the merely able are lauded, the JAMC occasionally astonish.

This was not a great night, consisting mostly of carelessly contructed houses of cards crashing in on themselves . Only a sense-numbingly physical career through 'You Trip Me Up' and a few snatches of untitled, steel-muscled rhythmic PILferage near the end caused that sun to escape the Mary Chain's black hole.

This audience is horrific. They stare like zombies, like disciples, like receptacles. When the first feedback wail rends the air - well into the second disorder - they applaud, like kids at a magic show. A steady hail of plastic glasses - Toytown molotovs on the night when in the real world, Handsworth burned - hit the stage. This crowd wants Blood, Plague, Mayhem, Destruction, Death and Chaos. In the event, The Mary Chain give them total and marrow-deep contempt, greater even then that they reserve for themselves.

If, begging, you hold your mouth open like a toilet-pan, someone is sure to shit in it.

The Noise - tonight, often awful - ends apbruptly. The eight-legged epicentre of narcissicism, risk, wilfulness and petulance is swallowed by the backstage darkness. The mass - addled by years of pointless precision, feigned fawning and ego-massage encores - feel cheated, and respond by staging a limp approximation of a riot. It's predictable, it's Pavlovian and it's pathetic.

Audiencewise, The Mary Chain and Ring Master McGee have made their own bed, an endlessly replaced time bomb. The sensation-starved bloodlusters were their route to notoriety and new leather trousers but now they're an irremovable obstacle.

Ultimately this was another depressingly familiar Mary Chain night. The wearily reflexive (un)civil unrest obscured that this band are infinitely better on cold vinyl than in their theoretically natural habitat.

And yet, there were those few minutes when this band was as unique, as fearsome and as important as they ritually claim; a few minutes when they rendered most everything else in pop hopelessly redundant.

Those, five maybe six, minutes prove that these callous, calculated scoundrels remain among the most startling and necessary experiences/punishments/sideshows/narcotics/adventures currently avaliable.

Yet this fundamental truth had obviously and easily escaped the lines of bewildered and unfilled plane-crash ghouls that filed out muttering darkly about rip-offs, wankers and the worst band they'd ever seen...

But then some people, on this evening a saddening and sad majority, just Never Understand.

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