In the 1990s music scene landscape, an emerging American band steeped in a unique blend of noise and darkness found themselves sharing the stage on a US tour with a band that had already carved a niche with their dark and distinctive wall of cathartic sound. The fledgling ensemble was none other than Nine Inch Nails, and the headliners? The Jesus and Mary Chain.
Fast forward nearly three decades, and the tables would then turn. The Reid brothers received an invitation to step into the shoes of their former supporting act, opening for Nine Inch Nails – now international music icons and cultural touchstones – on their North American tour. Trent Reznor, the driving force behind Nine Inch Nails, had been a longstanding admirer and an audible disciple of The Jesus and Mary Chain ever since the hypnotic strains of ‘Psychocandy‘ had first graced his ears. It was a reunion that felt like a harmonious full-circle moment.
“In the 1980s, after punk rock, I used to think that the frontman had to go out and explode on stage,” recalls Jim Reid. “I couldn’t do that because I’m basically a shy, quite timid person. I’m not Iggy Pop. I’m not going to cut my chest open with broken glass. The only way I could think to get through the experience was to get absolutely off my tits on whatever I could; alcohol and, later, drugs. When the band reformed, in 2007, I had been sober for five years at that point. So Coachella, believe it or not, was the first sober gig I did with the band.”
The tour commenced with its grandeur in Phoenix, Arizona, in September 2018, eventually culminating with a series of six electrifying shows at the Hollywood Palladium in Los Angeles, just as Christmas was on the horizon. The soul of this album, ‘Sunset 666‘, thrives on seventeen tracks handpicked from two of these unforgettable nights.
The existence of this album, Sunset 666, is nothing short of serendipitous. Initially, there were no plans to immortalize any of the shows in a recording. However, fate had a different agenda when Michael Brennan, the sound engineer, found himself exploring the rented mixing console. There, nestled amidst its tech-laden interface, was a petite USB-out socket. It was this unassuming discovery that led to a game-changing decision. Brennan plugged in his laptop, hit ‘save,’ and the rest, as they say, is music history.
The vinyl’s Sides A, B, and C encapsulate the entire set from the tour’s closing night on December 15, preserved in the precise order they reverberated through the venue. From the exhilarating drumbeats that ignited Just Like Honey, heralding the start of the show, to the wild ecstasy of an elongated eight-and-a-half-minute rendition of Reverence, these twelve songs recount the night in all its sonic glory.
Side D of the vinyl record, with selections from the December 11 show, reads like an intimate homage to the Automatic album. It features robust renditions of “Blues From A Gun,” “Between Planets,” and “Half Way To Crazy.” Rounding off the tracklist is “In A Hole”, a defiantly snarling live rendition that diverges from Psychocandy’s white-noise whimper. This anthem of self-revulsion shares a raw, poignant undercurrent with Nine Inch Nails’ chosen set-closer, “Hurt”.
“We’re thrilled to share this version of Sometimes Always with our friend Isobel Campell (Belle and Sebastian) doing the vocal, which Hope Sandoval did on the studio version,” says the band…Sunset 666 captures two shows we did at the Hollywood Palladium with Nine Inch Nails and Isobel in December 2018. It was the first time we’d performed that song for god knows how many years.”
“To be surrounded by that sound was completely electric,” Campbell recalls. “I love singing with Jim. That time in my life was pretty bleak, and being around the band and their people reignited a spark in me that had been dormant. And I was blown away by William. He’s a guitar genius; one of a kind. It feels like we’re all kindred spirits. I can’t think of a band I would rather sing with.”
With shades of a classic Lee Hazlewood duet, listen to the gorgeous performance of “Sometimes Always” here:
Listening to this album is a journey not just through the legacy of The Jesus and Mary Chain, but also a voyage through personal memories and associations for anyone who has tracked their musical trajectory over the years. Some may label this as mere nostalgia, but it’s far more profound than that. It’s a testament to the extraordinary power of music – its uncanny ability to echo our own narratives back to us, reframing our stories through its melodies and lyrics. ‘Sunset 666‘ is more than just an album; it’s a musical mirror reflecting the listener’s life journey.
“It’s gone beyond entertainment,” Jim agrees. “These songs are part of people’s lives.”
Due out August 4th on double LP vinyl, CD, and digital via Fuzz Club, ‘Sunset 666’ sees The Jesus and Mary Chain deliver a set of classics with a composed intensity. The album will be released the same day they perform at London’s Crystal Palace Bowl, alongside Primal Scream and The Black Angels, as part of this year’s South Facing Festival.
You can pre-order here.
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