When Jesus & Mary Chain's first full-length effort, Psychocandy, was released in 1985, critics hailed it as a breakthrough album. Filled with the feedback and noise everyone now considers predictable and indistinct, the album showcased what was then fairly innovative stuff. Borrowing heavily from The Velvet Underground, Psychocandy sharpened that sound into something more aggressive and overpowering. Their trademark style continued to evolve throughout the eighties, but never stopped taking surprising and refreshing risks. 1987's Darklands is a slow, echoing, fuzz-laden recording, while 1989's Automatic switches gears into lively, mindless pop-rock. Again in the nineties, the band branched out in new directions. Honey's Dead, released two years ago, is a pulsating, invigorated batch of songs. With it, The Jesus & Mary Chain displayed an enduring capacity for generating mind-blowing songs--a creative stamina few bands possess.
With Stoned And Dethroned the band has taken another calculated step sideways, avoiding the high octane, aggressive songs people have come to expect after the meltdown noise of Psycho Candy. Instead, Scottish brothers William and Jim Reid have decompressed Mary Chain's sound. Their characteristically driving electric guitars are toned down, serving only to accentuate more melodic acoustic guitar parts. Singer Jim Reid, however, doesn't see the album as a radical change. "I don't really think we were getting away from anything really," he said. "I think we've always done music like this, not an album like this, but if you check out some of the b-sides to singles--I don't know if they've been released in America--but we have done stuff like this on b-sides before." The band's loyal fans seem to buy into this new direction, and their following has grown steadily since the release of the hit single, "Sometimes Always" (featuring Hope Sandoval from Mazzy Star). "I think if anybody is really a fan of The Jesus & Mary Chain, they are going to go with this record," explained Reid. "Because you've got to give the band a chance. If anybody is sitting around waiting for Psychocandy all over again, I wouldn't call them a Mary Chain fan."
The Stoned And Dethroned project began as an acoustic album, and its evolution was sometimes painfully slow. "This was probably the hardest record ever for us to make," said Reid. "I think it was probably because we started with the idea of doing an acoustic record, and it wasn't working out at that stage. We experimented a lot more on this record because we were probably kind of confused, because we wanted to strip it down and make it mellow, but we weren't real sure how to go about doing it. So we had to try out a few different things before we got what we got. . . . All in all it took about a year to record."
But the work's paid off. With its shimmering, crisp production, the album ranks among the year's finest. "I think the production is something we are quite proud of," noted Reid, who co-produced the album with his brother William. "I think we are actually quite good at producing records now. We've always done it, but we are kind of learning as we go along. I think we reached the stage where we feel confident enough to produce for other bands." The album is also bolstered by outstanding vocal performances by annoying, petulant starlet Hope Sandoval and former Pogue lead barfly Shane MacGowen. "We had agreed to do a record with Hope years ago, and we've just been waiting for the right song to come along. Hope did a tour with us, I think it was in '87 or something when she was in a band called Opal. Then we just thought she had a great voice, and the idea came out of that. And then years and years passed until the time was right," said Reid. "With Shane it was a lot more that we really loved the Pogues and loved his voice. We don't actually know him, we just got word to Shane that we'd like to work with him." MacGowen proved perfect for the tune "God Help Me," a desperate song fraught with ironic implications considering MacGowen spent much of the past few years staggering about in an alcoholic stupor. "I think Shane is a bit more together now," said Reid. "He's got a new band together, and they are just working on an album now, so I think he has got it a bit together; although when he was down at the studio with us, he was probably drinking a bit more than what is good for a body."
Like "God Help Me," all of the songs on the album are plain depressing, a feature tying it to much of The Mary Chain's previous work. "When it comes to the songwriting, I think the continuing thread which runs through all of our stuff is still there," noted Reid. "But there is more subtlety now." Though the new album carries that subtlety with a decidedly stripped down sound, Reid was uncertain if the band would continue in the same direction. "Doing acoustic music and doing feedback music, it's like we love both of those types of music and everything in-between them. You shouldn't tie yourself to any kind, like being a noise band or an acoustic band. Even with some of the singles we've released in Britain for this album, the b-sides are huge, noisy stuff. And maybe that's what we'll do on the next album, maybe not. I don't know." "I think for the time being I can't imagine going any further with stripping it down. But I suppose it is possible. If you just stick a mic in front of an acoustic guitar and sing into a ghetto blaster or something you'd get as much of a stripped down sound as you can imagine, and who's to say that we may not do that. . .the ghetto blaster album." Because you've got to give the band a chance. If anybody is sitting around waiting for Psychocandy all over again, I wouldn't call them a Mary Chain fan."