Review Summary: Overlooked and forgotten by everyone but the diehards, "Honey's Dead" deserves a rediscovery
Who are we talking about?
British band, only constant members are two brothers, one very nasal vocalist and one on guitar, who occasionally sings, they broke up after years of alcohol abuse and countless fights. Also canon has it, that they were never able to reach the heights of their early days ever again, they were known for being heavily influenced by the Beatles and the Stones, but cranked their catchy melodies up to 11 with walls of guitars while keeping everything else as simple as possible.
The band I'm talking about is of course britpop legend Oasis, or what did you think?
OK, bad joke aside, it's almost creepy how much Oasis and JAMC have in common. Despite being rather known as the godfathers of the shoegaze genre than associated with britpop, The Jesus and Mary Chain are pretty much Oasis before Oasis, which might make some people ask themselves why they didn't share their overwhelming success and rather faded into the second row after their more than promising beginning.
Maybe the Reid brothers were just less megalomaniac and world conquering in their approach as the Gallaghers and it's no accident that their least abrasive sounding record „Darklands“ (1987) was their highest charting.
„Honey's Dead“ from 1992 finds the Reid brothers trying to find their place in an era, when alternative Rock ruled the world, the vaguely similar dancerock of the Madchester was on its way out of the mainstream and the britpop hype was still to come. The band had to follow their OK-but-not-astonishing flirtations with drum machines of their „Automatic“ (1989) album, which did not exactly kill their momentum, but it showed signs of a creative and commercial decline (especially because of the stale drum machines). „Honey's Dead“ did little to change the latter problem, but on every other level, this is a huge improvement that, at least for me, makes this their second best (Yes, "Psychocandy" is still first) and one of the most distinctive releases by them.
The Reids still made use of programmed drums and percussions, but this time it doesn't feel like they just did it because the couldn't find a drummer because the brothers were difficult to work with. Weirdly enough, some songs have a familiarity to the sound of the alternative dance sounds of early Primal Scream, whose mastermind used to be the drummer on the first JAMC album.
But all in all, this feels like a very logical step forward. While „Darklands“ or „Stoned & Dethroned“ landed a little too much on the dull side and „Automatic“ and its dance rock occasionally felt forced, „Honey's Dead“ nailed the balance between the spiky edginess of their guitar sound and the almost offensively simple melodies. It can be seen as the culmination of the band's previous efforts. It is as danceable as „Automatic“, wears it's pop sensibilities on it's sleeve like „Darklands“ and the guitar noise of the early days is back, too. That's why it has one big advantage to the oh-so-unbeatable debut „Psychocandy“ by being way more versatile.
However, I'm not so sure if it was a good idea to choose „Reverence“ as the first single. Heavily inspired by Primal Scream (Ironically, the band of the Mary Chain's former drummer), the try hard shock value lyrics are garantueed to get your eyes rolling („I wanna die just like Jesus Chriiiiiist“ ) and its few lines are repeated way too often, while the interesting but monotonous music doesn't help either. Solid album track, but as a single it probably made the band seem a little desperate for attention. It also didn't need a reprise in the album's coda „Frequency“, but whatever.
While the opening songs range from OK („Teenage Lust“) to pretty good („Far and Gone Out“, „Almost Gold“), the album's middle stretch is where the Mary Chain really start to shine: „Sugar Ray“ should have been a hit single and not the name of a terrible fratboy band, „Tumbledown“ brings the „Beatles with distortion“-approach home better than anything (the frenetic outro rules), while the masterfully layered guitars on the slow burning „Catchfire“ make it one of the most psychedelic songs in their repertoire. It's a shame that none of those tracks received the attention they deserve. The JAMC even avoid their usual mistake of ending the album with some of the weakest tracks. The fast paced „Rollercoaster“, the very beatlesesque „I Can't Get Enough“ and the rather trippy „Sundown“ don't break any new ground, but hold the surprisingy high standards set before.
Rather than being seen as part of the so-so-legacy of the Mary Cain's 90s output, „Honey's Dead“ deserves to be rediscovered as a slightly dated but highly rewarding and thrilling record, that effortlessly melts multiple genres into some fun and hedonistic music with tons of what you would have called „swagger“ in 2012. If you're not repelled by simplicism when it comes to songwriting, this could be for you.