Saturday, April 28, 2007

Lost in transubstantiation ? The Jesus And Mary Chain return

On Thursday night, The Jesus And Mary Chain shared a live stage for the first time in getting on for a decade. World Entertainment News Network sounded like it felt cheated:

The Jesus And Mary Chain performed their first gig in nine years on Thursday - although reports actress Scarlett Johansson was to duet with the cult rockers proved unfounded.

They had Annie Hardy from Giant Drag, they had the Jesus and Mary Chain in front of them, playing a gig that, if not quite historic was certainly significant, and they're moaning they didn't get a woman from a cosmetic commercial.

Added to which, nobody expected her for the warm up: she was always going to shimmy on for the main event, the first night of this year's Coachella festival.


Stereogum has pictorial evidence and The Desert Sun reported the required Hollywood star was present and correct:
The Scottish group was playing its first major concert since breaking up in 1999, after a warm-up gig in Pomona with indie rock singer Annie Hardy. But then film star Scarlett Johansson joined them on the main Coachella Stage, singing harmony on the band's classic, "Just Like Honey."

But, as Rolling Stone Rock Daily observed, Johansson was merely a bit part player:
Weirdly, a straw-hat-wearing Scarlett Johannson came out and sang harmonies on “Just Like Honey,” the haunting tune that played over the credits of Lost in Translation. Frontman Jim Reid never introduced or identified her, and some crowd members seemed either oblivious to the movie star’s presence or just way too indie to acknowledge it.

The San Jose Mercury dispatched the glamour girl and quickly got down to what the music world wants to know - how do they sound now?
Johansson looked a bit nervous and left the stage immediately upon finishing the song; she said nothing to the crowd. As to her vocal abilities, she didn’t do anything that anyone else couldn’t do. She may be a capable singer, but this performance didn’t prove anything.

The rest of the set mixed old favorites like “Some Candy Talking” and “Reverence” with a handful of new songs. The band was on good behavior; there were none of the drink- or drug-fueled tirades one might have seen in the ’90s, and they didn’t seem rusty. But overall, it was less exciting than you would hope for the high-profile reunion show of such an influential band. Let’s hope the Rage Against the Machine and Crowded House reunions are more inspired on Sunday.

Ouch. If you come away thinking "blimey, only Crowded House can save my faith in music", that doesn't bode too well.

Reading the NME report, it's clear that the Reids are as cantankerous as ever, and probably not that bothered about lukewarm reactions from Californian papers:
Dressed all in black, they tore through classics including 'Head On' and 'Some Candy Talking' as well as a new song.

"This is fucking unreal," frontman Jim Reid told the massive crowd.

"Are you having fun?" he asked. When the crowd responded positively he quipped, "Well let's see what we can do about that!"

This didn't stop the audience from dancing and cheering throughout their hour-long set.

That observation sounds less like an NME review and more like something you'd expect to hear on a Pathe newsreel from the coronation.

Mind you, Billboard's review sounds like something from Saturday Club, or black and white era kids TV:
The group, which has not toured since 1998, debuted a peppy new song that found frontman Jim Reid singing, "I hope it don't crack."

Well, that is a peppy new tune. Well done, Mr. Reid.

Further proof that MTV knows the sales of everything and the value of nothing, the MTV website was flabbergasted that the Mary Chain reunion could beat Rage Against The Machine:
The surprise there was the Jesus and Mary Chain, whose reunion has been rightfully overshadowed by Rage Against the Machine (clearly the most anticipated band this go-around). Coachella organizers love nothing more than bringing influential late '80s/ early '90s bands back together, even if the results don't always live up to their good intentions. In this case, though, the show was mesmerizing from start to finish and clearly showcased the droning guitar sound (newcomers can reference "Just Like Honey" from "Lost in Translation") that countless acts have ripped off over the years.

The assumption being that, if you're too young to have heard of a band from ten years ago, you might have heard of a movie from five years ago, of course.

Actually, people young enough to not know either seemed to lap it up, according to It Came From Culture City:
Take Gemma Walker -- age "4 and seven-eighths" according to her adult companions -- who was dancing her tail off to Jesus and Mary Chain earlier.

That kid could boogie.

And Gemma is as old as John Peel, compared with René Valentino Garcia, III, who's only two and blogged the set:
Then Jesus and Mary Chain. Mom and dad kept shoving ear plugs in my ears all night. I didn’t like that too much, but at least I got to stay up late.

You'll be thankful when you get to our age that Mom and Dad use ear protection for you, young man.

But even a two year-old might be puzzled: By what standard would MTV argue that the RATM reunion "rightfully overshadowed" the JAMC one? Rage always were one note, and the stuff their descendant bands have been doing since they broke up has been like they've never been away anyway. Not to mention that the bad blood and fighting which the Mary Chain dissolved in made their coming back together a triumph over adversity rather than what seemed to be little more than the orchestration of schedules which reunited the Machine.

But while MTV expected little and found treasure, Entertainment Weekly Popwatch wasn't entirely impressed with the performance:
No one rioted, and the Reid brothers did not break out into fisticuffs on stage. In fact, Jim Reid barely spoke as the set went on, with the exception of asking us if we were having fun and then saying, "Well. We'll see what we can do about that." After a few more songs, certain members of my entourage were comparing his stage presence unfavorably to that of Thom Yorke.

LA Weekly's Style Council suggested that this might be the factor which will allow the Mary Chain to run as long as the Rolling Stones - or maybe longer:
His voice hasn’t changed that much, and neither has his stage presence. This isthe original shoegazer band, he’s 48, but with his mellow stage presence he can play til 80 without having to change much, unlike Mick Jagger.

The kindness of the years to Reids was commented on by The Riverboat Captain, too:
[D]elighted to see their combination Beach Boys on mescalin attack is undiminished despite advancing years.

Which is more than you can say for both the Beach Boys - and, indeed, mescaline.
The Chicago Tribune plumps for a different combination:
Their music always had a brutal edge, and it sounds nasty as ever, with Phil Spector-sized pop melodies run through a torture chamber of screaming guitars.

Only a cameo vocal by a supremely ill-at-ease Scarlett Johansson on “Just Like Honey” strikes a false note.

It was, after all, about the brothers.


1 comment:

catdirt said...

for the record, buddyhead wrote it up as a rumor on 4/6 and wrote about the jamc show as a done deal on 4/9 (which was then cited on stereogum, nme etc.)

anyway- i was actuall at the festival, and the thursday show, and i was told at the thursday show that scarlett was going to do coachella and i was like "oh, huh."

but then she actually appeared on friday night i was pretty relieved, just from a credibility standpoint, but i think it's pretty hilarious how everyone on friday was like "oh, it didn''t happen" - like it was some unfounded rumor, and then it happened on saturday.

but as the guy who got credited for the story- i want to point out the 4/6 buddyhead post- i wasn't actually aware of it until this evening.

the actual appearance itself was besides the point but the coverage- whoah.

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