Sunday, January 9, 2011

January 9: The Jesus And Mary Chain, "Just Like Honey"

Artist: The Jesus And Mary Chain
Song: "Just Like Honey"
Album: Psychocandy
Year: 1985

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN (will open in new tab)

Though it is usually easy to trace the sound of a band back to their roots, it can often be shocking to do this in reverse.  That is to say, while many believe that the long-term impact of a certain type of music is always clear, there are often cases where it can produce such a distant sound, many fail to make the connection.  Case in point, though it is certainly easy to connect the hardcore movement to its punk rock roots, many fail to acknowledge the direct correlation between punk and the musically complex, often over-bearing sound that many now call "noise pop."  Perhaps due to the stark contrast in musical arrangements, it is a bit more difficult to see this connection, yet tracing both sounds back, there is no question that they can both be seen as descendants of the sound of bands like The Velvet Underground.  While many bands attempted this "noise pop" sound, an overwhelming majority miss by a long shot, yet there is perhaps no other band that more accurately represents the genre than one finds in the stunning music of The Jesus And Mary Chain.  Combining the "wall of sound" approach with often dark, almost haunting lyrics, along with a simplicity that is unquestionably punk, The Jesus And Mary Chain completely rewrote the books on music with their extraordinary 1985 debut, Psychocandy, and their amazing fusion of sounds and moods can be found at its best within their phenomenal single from that record, "Just Like Honey."

The song starts off simply enough, as drummer Bobby Gillespie puts forth a rhythm that seems to almost bounce off the track, and the echo that comes from the almost stark cymbal hits is strangely perfect.  Many have gone so far as to link this cadence back to the classic song "Be My Baby," and even with the rest of the sound going on around it, the comparison is not that far off base.  While this sound is certainly a key part of the songs over all power, there is no question that the most stunning aspect of "Just Like Honey" lives within the tone of William Reid's guitar work.  It is here that one can experience the sound that would later be dubbed as "buzzsaw guitar," and there is an odd beauty that one can find in this sound that appears at the surface to be extremely aggressive.  The amount of emotion that Reid is able to convey through his guitar is truly unparalleled, as there is a level of sadness here that is unlike anything previously recorded.  Bassist Douglas Hart is also able to find this amazing musical space, and the bassline often seems as if it is taking a dejected walk across the rest of the song.  The way in which the instruments come together to create this strange combination of dark, somber feelings with a grinding, aggressive sound is absolutely stunning, and the musical perfect found on "Just Like Honey" has never been achieved since, proving what a unique grouping of musical talents one can find in The Jesus And Mary Chain.

Perfectly mirroring the music over which he sings, many point to the vocals of Jim Reid as one of the most important pieces in the development of what is now seen as the "emo" sound.  Easily working the entire musical scale, there is a morose, despondent mood in his vocals, and yet this mood is strangely captivating, pulling the listener in completely.  Yet it is this sense of the dramatic that makes "Just Like Honey" such a phenomenal musical achievement, as even with these overwhelming moods, the song never feels "overdone" or cliché, and the heartbreak and frustration experienced here is such to which anyone can relate.  Furthermore, the connection to "girl groups" like The Ronettes can once again be seen, as the mood and lyrics are quite similar between the two vocal performances.  This is to say that on many levels, "Just Like Honey" would have fit in easily during the 1960's, and one can even go as far as saying that both in the melodies and harmonies, one can hear traces of influence from groups like The Beach Boys.  This strange combination of sounds and styles has never been replicated, and yet Jim Reid finishes off the song with some of the most simple, yet pained lyrics ever penned, as there are few that cannot relate to the frustration found in lines like, "...walking back to you is the hardest thing that I can do..."  In both the way he sings, well as the words he presents, the vocals found on "Just Like Honey" serve as a perfect complement to the superb wall of sound over which they have been placed.

Flawless in a way unlike any other song ever recorded, one cannot overstate the quality and lasting influence of The Jesus And Mary Chain's "Just Like Honey," as it paved the way found countless other bands.  The way in which the group was able to fuse together so many different styles remains nothing short of extraordinary, and yet even with the clear connection to so many groups, the sound found throughout Psychocandy is unquestionably all their own.  Showing the common ground between The Beach Boys and The Velvet Underground is something that most would say does not exist, yet after experiencing "Just Like Honey," one simply cannot deny the connection, as well as the link to the great "girl groups" that preceded them all.  Though it had not been heard in over a decade, the "wall of sound" approach that The Jesus And Mary Chain bring to the song works perfectly, and yet there is a strange warmth to the song that seems to contrast the overall mood and musical arrangement.  The fact that the group was able to create this mood with such aggressive sounding guitars is another nod to their unique blend of musical perfection, and even nearly three decades later, both the song and the single remain absolutely unrivaled in this sense.  Proving that there can be a stunning beauty within the punk, hardcore, and "noise" styles of music, there has simply never been another song that was on par with The Jesus And Mary Chain's phenomenal 1985 single, "Just Like Honey."

No comments: