The Jesus and Mary Chain (JAMC) is Scottish and the songs are written by brothers Jim and William Reid, with the rest of the lineup going through multiple changes since the group was formed in 1983 when everybody else was making electronic pop music. They used heavy guitar distortion sound effects and played their early shows with their backs to the audience (a foxy way to combat stage fright) causing the kind of spectators that needed to have an affectionate relationship with the live band, combined with their deafening performance, to get frustrated, resulting in media-exaggerated mayhem and granting JAMC the title of “the next Sex Pistols” and attracting more and more pissed of crowds to break stuff in the venues. Their debut album Psychocandy (1985) is basically a pop record dipped into layers of noise while the next albums have relatively less distortion, are more user-friendly and can also be listened to without a proper sound system. Surprisingly, Psychocandy sold fairly well, but their next albums proved to be less experimental.
JAMC’s Automatic (1989) is quite automatic indeed. The song structures are simple, a drum machine is used instead of a person bashing away (except for “Gimme Hell”), a synthesizer for bass guitar and perhaps because of these instrumental elements, the tunes can sound relatively repetitive and dry. That is not to say that the album is complete trash though, I actually think it’s a rather pretty effort and the record compiles for a cool late-evening listening, the tracks knit together tightly promoting an ‘I don’t shower that often’ sound. Released four years after Psychocandy, Automatic is a lot more teddy-bear sweet and goes to show how their claims of “wanting to write hit pop songs” were not just comical exaggerations made by the noisiest band on earth. There’s not much to be said about the individual tracks as they all kind of blend together; the most noticeable changes as the songs alternate being the tempo, drum machine fills and vocal intensity. Automatic did produce their best known single at that time though, “Head On” which was also covered by Pixies and there’s also an acoustic song “Drop” making for an interesting twist before the closing instrumental kicks off. The lyrical content of the album deals with general themes such as dissatisfaction, pensiveness, love, Jesus, death, strolling around, doubting ones senses and also some mumbling. Two songs, “Halfway to Crazy” and the follow-up “Gimme Hell” both feature the same phrase “tongue tied”, but whether this was an artistic choice or simply carelessness is probably an intentional puzzle by the Reids.
While being nothing as grand as Psychocandy, Automatic is a fine piece in their catalogue of 6 albums. After disbanding in 1999, JAMC reformed in 2007, released a greatest hits album in 2010 and in September 2015 Jim Reid announced the band was in studio recording a new album.