The Jesus and Mary Chain

The Power of Negative Thinking: B-Sides & Rarities

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The Jesus and Mary Chain's 2008 Rhino four-disc box set The Power of Negative Thinking: B-Sides & Rarities, collects all of the influential Scottish noise-pop band's various B-side singles, cover songs, and sundry demos in one terrific package. Fans of JAMC who already own the band's albums should be pleased to see that none of the original album tracks are included here. For those who don't own them, Rhino's 2006 bonus disc reissues of Psychocandy, Darklands, Automatic, Honey's Dead, and Stoned & Dethroned is the place to start. However, in many ways The Power of Negative Thinking is a more honest portrait of JAMC than even the studio albums reveal. Often mischaracterized as gloomy, goth rock misanthropes -- only partly true -- JAMC were in truth huge fans of '60s sunshine pop, surf rock, and even hip-hop and aspired to a kind of D.I.Y. Phil Spector Wall of Sound aesthetic that found them substituting Spector's strings and horns with walls of feedbacking guitar. These are rough demos meant to capture the Reid brothers' raw creative vision of rock music that -- as guitarist Jim Reid says in the liner notes -- had, "the pop sensibilities of the Shangri-Las, but with the production values of the Birthday Party." In that sense, we get JAMC from their dreamy lo-fi punk roots with the 1983 drum machine-driven demo for "Up Too High" and 1984's sludgy feedback-laden "Upside Down," to their time as '90s alt rock icons on such pristinely polished efforts like shimmering 1992 ballad "Why Do You Want Me?" and the catchy folk-rock of 1994's "Something I Can't Have." We even get one of the few non-Reid entries in bassist Ben Lurie's pop nugget "Rocket." Also enlightening are such giddy cover songs as JAMC's version of Bo Diddley's "Who Do You Love," Prince's "Alphabet Street," and the Temptations' "My Girl" which purportedly JAMC were so drunk during the recording of they could barely hold their instruments. It's also true that the Reid brothers were big fans of Bob Dylan and that many of these songs were written on acoustic guitar. Not surprisingly, here we get blissfully melodic acoustic versions of "Just Like Honey" and "Taste of Cindy," which actually come fairly close to fulfilling JAMC's Spector-ish aspirations. Ultimately, The Power of Negative Thinking isn't the whole JAMC story, but it's the whole story behind the scenes and A-side singles, and sometimes the B-sides. Even better.

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