The Jesus and Mary Chain have always been a band clutching at the straws of the most unattainable levels of cool, cloaked all in black, perfectly messed hair, making a concerted effort to seem like they’re making no effort at all, hinting at the headiest heights of hedonism. The brothers Reid tick all appropriate boxes on the drugged-up rockers application form, if their music had half the edge they so formulaically inject into their image they might have produced a better effort than Damage and Joy.
More than half the songs on this record are based around the constant staccato of the Velvet Underground’s ‘I’m Waiting on My Man’, big open chords repeatedly down strummed throughout very quickly becomes audible waterboarding. On top of that Damage and Joy is packed full of the kind of lyrics you’re likely to find written on the back of a junior cert drama student’s A4 pad alongside a picture of a heart shedding a solitary tear “Love don’t live here anymore, don’t come knocking on my door. I just can’t get no peace of mind, there’s a piece that I can’t find” and that’s without getting into the many girlfriends they apparently have, including one that “smells like coffee but feels like rain”.
‘Presidici (Et Chapaquiditch)’ is a track that at least stands out both melodically and lyrically with its references to “chicken fried rice” and “Christopher Walken” but it’s one of the few departures from the band’s droning fuzz approach. Similarly ‘Simian Split’ tells the tale of Kurt Cobain’s killer and the role Courtney Love allegedly played in the whole sordid affair, completely off the wall musically – all backwards tape, stunted drum breaks and Ribot-esque a-tonal guitar serving as the slightest nod toward what the band is capable of when the rock-by-numbers approach is discarded.
There’s some nice lead guitar work on some of the tracks, the occasional decent melody but on the whole, it’s pretty turgid stuff. Heavy distortion – the band’s trademark back in the day – hangs over the whole record. Back then it was seen as pioneering, even brave to drench pop songs like ‘Happy When It Rains’ and ‘Just Like Honey’ in such heavy distortion but Damage and Joy just doesn’t have the songs. Even if it did it would still seem like a one trick pony.