Honey's Dead (Expanded Version)

Honey's Dead (Expanded Version)

The Jesus and Mary Chain’s first album of the 1990s found the band navigating a very different musical landscape than the underground rock circuit it had previously called home. Alternative music was in its ascendance, and major labels were out looking for the next Nirvana. For its part, Honey’s Dead didn’t shy away from the opportunity, although it didn’t fully capitalize on it, either. The first single, “Reverence,” made easy headlines with the lyrics, “I wanna die just like Jesus Christ/I wanna die on a bed of spikes” that got it banned from BBC TV. But the song’s acid house-inspired drum loops, au courant in 1991 on hits like EMF’s “Unbelievable” and Jesus Jones’ “Right Here, Right Now,” were démodé by 1992. Plus, the baggy Madchester beats sounded rather ridiculous played midday sandwiched between Pearl Jam and Soundgarden on that summer’s Lollapalooza tour. While it did little to improve their mainstream fortunes, Honey’s Dead did see the Reid brothers finally wrangle their various sonic modes into one coherent package. “Reverence” and “Tumbledown” reconcile the dissonant noise of early JAMC records with the increasing musicality of subsequent albums—taming the screeching feedback into something less disagreeable. Similarly, “Teenage Lust” and “Sugar Ray” seem designed to make amends for Automatic’s relentless synth-bass by switching to a fuzzed-out bass guitar sound, while the soaring string arrangement on “Almost Gold” takes the evocative formula the band discovered circa Darklands to its logical conclusion. The album’s biggest hit was “Far Gone and Out,” arguably the most upbeat tune in the entire JAMC catalog, with its rollicking snare rhythm played live by Steve Monti of Curve, and William Reid’s chiming open chords that inspire brother Jim to break from his usual stoic vocals and shout, “Hey, hey, hey!” More convivial than anything released up to that point, Honey’s Dead may have been out of step with 1992, but decades later, it stands as one of the JAMC’s best efforts.

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