With its searing noise-crush aesthetic and echoey fills layered beneath pop melodies straight out of the ’60s girl-group sound, the Jesus and Mary Chain’s 1985 album Psychocandy marked a watershed moment in rock history. In her new book, Psychocandy, for the album-focused 33 1/3 series, arts and culture writer Paula Mejia explores that moment and what caused it to come about when it did.
“They did this really particular thing in that they subverted the canon while becoming a standard,” says Mejia, who sits down with local writer Allison Fensterstock for a conversation about the book on December 2 from 5–7 p.m. at Euclid Records.
“To have those seemingly dissonant elements come together I think was really powerful and I think that’s something people have drawn on and still continue to play around with today.”
An early devotee of feedback-heavy shoegaze acts like My Bloody Valentine and Lush—bands Mejia says “sound like an assault on your ears but in the best possible way”—the author began thinking critically about Psychocandy while she was a student at George Washington University. It became the focus of her graduate thesis and eventually, the subject of 33 1/3’s latest publication, which hit shelves in October.
“One of the big things that I wanted to dig into was the ‘psycho’ part of it and the ‘candy’ part of it,” Meijia says.
To do that, she traced the history of bubblegum pop beginning in the ’50s and the effect the emergence of teenage culture had on music. She also looked closely at the socio-political landscape out of which Psychocandy was born and how the Velvet Underground came to be a major influence on the band.
“I really was intrigued with the context of [the album’s] creation,” the author says.
What she found was that music she’d previously considered in punk terms represented, in part, a reaction to what Mejia described as a “sterile” music landscape. It also reflected the early pop obsessions of vocalists and guitarists Jim and William Reid.
Mejia discovered that the Scottish-born Reids had spent hours in the bedroom they shared as kids in a Glasgow suburb “plotting how to become the perfect pop band” while falling in love with groups like the Shangri-Las, the Shirelles and the Ronettes and dreaming of an appearance on “Top of the Pops.”
“Having read about the band’s early shows and how people had these very cathartic and occasionally violent outbursts at their shows, to me they were always kind of a punk band,” Mejia says. “But I was totally off about that.”
For more information on Euclid’s December 2 conversation and reading with Paula Mejia, visit the record store’s Facebook page at facebook.com/EuclidRecordsNola.rdsNola.