Noise Pop’s Not Dead

The Jesus And Mary Chain: Ottakringer Brauerei gig, Vienna in Austria, 14th October 2017. Words & Photos: Sabrina G

It’s 7:45 p.m. and quite a large group of fans gather at the entrance of the Ottakringer Brewery. One or two have spiked-up hair, some have chains attached to their trousers, others wear Nirvana T-shirts but everybody is dressed in black (I think I am the only one with a white Tee). You can easily imagine that many of them know the band from the Psychocandy times; the youngest, from Munki. There are also some young teenagers accompanied by their parents. Are they all Mary Chain fans? Most probably.

Once inside the Brewery, we wait patiently until support act, Cold Cave begin their set. Their Darkwave and Synthpop sounds catches the attention of the crowd, getting them into the mood for the big distort explosion of the Mary Chain. Cold Cave makes us dance but after a couple of songs, we start craving for something more. It will soon arrive.

In the meantime, I head off to the bar for another beer until I could hear the T-Rex song ‘Planet Queen’ telling me the wait is nearly over. Taking a look to the right of the stage and there they are: Scott, Brian, Mark, William and Jim.


The show starts as usual on this tour with their first single ‘Amputation’. Jim looks cool in his ‘Damage and Joy Boy’  tee, black jeans and suede creepers. There are some problems with the mic but not enough to interrupt the show, already reaching high in temperatures. Luckily, there is William to manage it all. His guitar delivery of delightful fuzz takes us far with ‘Happy When It Rains’. Everybody seems to enjoy this moment of bliss. But now Jim struggles with the mic stand. He will end up throwing it down to the technician, who gives it back to him immediately.

The more they play, the more the audience seems to rage. It seems as if we have been waiting them for years. Is it nostalgia or ennui? And what if it was just nostalgia? Aren’t we living in an era obsessed with the past? However, newer tracks like ‘Mood Rider’ comfortably sit between older tracks like ‘Cracking up’ and ‘Head On’. And that may surprise you, just like when Jim sings “I wanna die, I wanna die”, it doesn’t seem over-acted. It is very likely that the Mary Chain are still freaks in some way. But in any case, their live act has something special that lots of people are now enjoying: Jim twisting his body and twirling the mic’s cable while the others members of the band try to drown his voice in a sonic distortion. Take it or leave it.

Someone in the audience starts shouting “Fuck you” rather insistently and with Jim’s answer it didn’t last long: “Why can’t you just stop saying Fuck you? You’re not going to fuck me!”, he says in a pause between two songs, before carrying on with ‘Snakedriver’. By this time everybody’s sweating. The heat is suffocating but some of us can’t stop pogoing. We can even see the sweat drops falling from Jim’s arms. The show reaches its peak with ‘Some Candy Talking’ and ‘Reverence’.

The unpleasant words could have upset Jim and the band, but they come back for a first encore. The Mary Chain want to please; they are no longer in a confrontational mode, even though one should better not provoke Jim too much. They start the second set with the anthemic ‘Just Like Honey’ and the crowd fulfils the role of absent vocalist Bernadette Denning, who had up until now accompanied them in almost all of the Damage and Joy tour dates. The raw and gritty ‘In A Hole’ reminds us of the inextinguishable energy of William’s guitar and Jim’s nonchalant attitude. We are having a great time listening to such an eclectic repertoire. Which band can blend in such an astonishing way pop melodies to punk attitude? Dark lyrics to guitar distortion? Always going from one side to the other, the joy that emerges from their songs is usually the result of contrasting elements.

After their second encore, ‘Sidewalking’ and ‘I Hate Rock n Roll’, all we know for certain is that The Jesus and Mary Chain are better than ever. Their shows are an awesome display of the music style they have created and their undiscussed talent keeps us hanging on hoping that more new material will be soon coming.

God save the Mary Chain.

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