Live: Jesus and Mary Chain at Webster Hall, 05.21.07


The Jesus and Mary Chain
Webster Hall
May 21

By Rob Harvilla

Good lord, the disdain. “This is almost as good as seeing the Black Crowes!” chirped the dude next to me as the house lights dimmed and the East Coast leg of the Jesus and Mary Chain’s We’d Just as Soon Kill You as Look at You reunion tour finally began. Yeah, dawg. Exactly like the Black Crowes, if the brothers in the Black Crowes looked like the buddy cops in Hot Fuzz and totally hated you. Disinterest and diffidence are crucial aspects of the sneers ’n’ feedback JAMC experience, of course, but Jim Reid grabbed the mic and seethed the opening lines to “Never Understand”—”The sun comes up/Another day begins”—as though wishing the vilest of oaths upon our mothers. My god, the effort it must require to look so thoroughly bored.

The crowd took great pleasure in such dourness, of course, joyful blurting out the backing hey hey hey‘s to “Far Gone and Out,” part of an early burst of scuzzy radness (“Head On,” “Sidewalking”) that actually peaked with, of all possible songs, “Snakedriver.” The damndest thing.

Reasons to love “Snakedriver,” by the Jesus and Mary Chain:

3. Its opening line is “I got syphilitic hetero friends in every part of town.”

2. It’s so surly, sleazy, and unseemly it seems capable of giving you syphilis, too.

1. It survived being buried on the second half of the Crow soundtrack, alongside Pantera, Helmet, For Love Not Lisa, and fuckin’ My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult.

Perhaps “Snakedriver” resonated because it adroitly struts the great awesome half-assed vs. terrible half-assed divide, a construct familiar to anyone at this show. Is Jim’s groggy, pancake-flat delivery a product of masterful cool or shameful disregard? Is William’s wah-pedal assault on “Blues from a Gun” intended as catharsis or sabotage? (“This is technically a solo, I suppose, but I wish he’d move to another fret,” you think. William then moves to another fret. “I wish he’d stayed on that first fret,” you think.) Louder! Turn it up! demanded the crowd after every tune, a request JAMC seemed to begrudgingly request as the set finally peaked with “Just Like Honey” (no Scarlett Johansson cameo, alas) and the mighty “Reverence,” featuring the finest, most casually offensive opening line (“I wanna die like Jesus Christ”) since “I got syphilitic hetero friends in every part of town.” Ol’ Jim’s ears perked up long enough to shout “I wanna die! I wanna die! I wanna die!” a buncha times. The encore that followed was truly appalling.

Overall vibe: brashly sloppy. An affront to our usual expectation of moderate onstage enthusiasm that I guess we were somehow hoping for. Cruddy-sounding in a moderately appealing way. Watching reunited dudes totally not give a fuck isn’t exactly a transcendental experience, though. But you get what you pay for. (Offstage whispers.) $45 a ticket?!

Parting thoughts from the photographer:

3. “Do they know the ends to any of their songs?”

2. “It’s hard to look cool when you’re old.”

1. “I need a [Mountain] Dew.”