* “Tell me who baby who
Sings the rhythm and the blues
So sad and so slow
Like I do”
– The Gaslight Anthem
The more I think about it, that’s just what Stoned & Dethroned is, The Jesus and Mary Chain’s fifth album, released in 1994 and owning perenially to best album title in the bargain bin at Disc-Go-Round bragging rights. It’s just slow. It’s a tired album, it’s a steady, murky album and it’s an undeniably REAL album.
The cover depicts a wide-open road, one obviously in America, foreign to the band’s native UK. These are not fun-in-the-sun anthems, though — this music has no agenda of soundtracking MTV’s summer break beach party. But a lot of the muse likely came from America, from touring here, and from the exhaustion brought on by the very capitalist system that seeks to squeeze all the energy and effort it can out of you, all the while with one eye on your abs and your beach body.
Honestly, Honey’s Dead (1992) wasn’t chopped liver — it’s a JMC album you never hear about but I thought it had an intriguing metallic sheen and an undeniable “cool” about it, like the best work from this band does. It’s as if they’re half-frustrated at the fact that rock and roll is so poignantly, emphatically their calling card in life and they can’t alter this calling, and also half-elated that the sense of purpose would be so vastly undeniable in them, to this exact end. The LP rolled out catchy, radio-ready alternative rock with hints of the old “shell of noise” that so rampantly inundated ear drums on their debut Psychocandy.
Stoned & Dethroned is just done. It’s got no more time for gimmick. Singer Jim Reid wants you to hear these songs in a pure, unadulterated form. What’s more, he WANTS you to know what chord is coming next. In those two-chord progressions in tunes like “God Help Me,” that other chord is gonna BE there for you. That’s the whole point. “Busload of Faith” by Lou Reed is another rock and roll song that’s only got two chords the whole way, comes late in the songwriter’s catalogue, and, most importantly, is of a robust, undeniable level of genuineness and emotional authenticity. “God Help Me,” similar to “Busload of Faith,” is a song by an artist at the end of his rope, and sure, the guitars sound clean and professional-grade, the mix clear and digestible. But it’s the MOOD, the feeling, going into this song, of complete emotional destitution and near-hopelessness that to me harks back to what the entire genre was founded on, in the cotton picking fields, in the sultry, impoverished American South, and in the minds of countless misfits manifesting the concept of “freedom,” all in their shackles, with all the more vividness and valor.