3929. “Sugar Ray” by The Jesus & Mary Chain

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We will be spending about a week listening to the work of Scottish brothers Jim and William Reid, better known as The Jesus and Mary Chain. While the band didn’t have a whole lot of chart success in the U.S. (they had plenty of success in the UK), they were one of those groups whose unique sounds and penchant for stellar song writing influenced a generation of bands who did have great chart success. Sucks to be a trailblazer.

The band was also known for violence, drug use, and a certain amount of hype. They were called ‘The Next Sex Pistols’ and ‘The Greatest Band In The World’ in their early days. They would play 20 minute concerts (not to rip anyone off, but because that was all they had to play) and leave the crowd throwing bottles and making trouble for venues. Their twin influences were The Velvet Underground and the Shangri-La’s, so expect a wall of noise coupled with some infectious pop song writing.

I couldn’t love this band more.

Due to the magic of compilation albums and alphabetical order, we’re going to start with one of my favorite tracks, “Sugar Ray” from their fourth album, 1992’s Honey’s Dead. While the driving almost industrial rhythm that opens the song and laconic vocal delivery are both common aesthetic elements on Jesus and Mary Chain songs, anyone familiar with their earlier work (especially the songs on their first album) knows that this is a more polished (but no less aggressive) sound for the band. They called the record Honey’s Dead, in fact, as a reference to the sound on their earlier single, “Just Like Honey.”

The lyrics are classic Jesus and Mary Chain – images that suggest something druggy or unpleasant coupled with the upbeat “all I want is you” chorus. I read the song as actually being sort of anti-drug in the sense that the object of the singers affection might want drugs, but all the singers wants is her.

I played this song like mad in 1992 on KTUH and it was probably included on just about every mix tape I gave to anyone until those ceased to be a thing in the mid-90’s. The end of an era.

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