‘You Realize Music Itself Is the Goal’ : The title of the Jesus and Mary Chain’s album-- ‘Stoned & Dethroned’--reflects the difficulties the acclaimed band has had in breaking through.

<i> Robert Hilburn is The Times' pop music critic</i>

‘Stoned & Dethroned” serves as more than the title for the Jesus and Mary Chain’s sixth album. It can also be seen as a bittersweet summary of the band’s own frustrating career misfortunes.

Despite the most consistently exciting and influential music of anyone from across the Atlantic since U2, the Mary Chain is still struggling to build an audience in this country.

One problem: Brothers Jim and William Reid’s stark musical sensibilities--a combination of relentless guitar feedback and dark, obsessive themes a la the Velvet Underground--have proved too radical for U.S. radio programmers.


American Recordings is optimistic about the new album, pointing out the new single (“Sometimes Always,” a duet by Jim Reid and Mazzy Star’s Hope Sandoval) is being played extensively by college and alternative-rock stations. The collection is a step away from the group’s trademark feedback but doesn’t compromise its musical integrity. ( See review, Page 78. )

With the album just having arrived in the stores, the Reid brothers spoke about their band’s music, the early acclaim and adjusting to nearly a decade of career frustrations.

Question: It’s hard to believe that you’ve been on the scene for 10 years now. Does it feel like that long--or does it feel longer at times?

William: Sometimes it feels like 20 years ‘cause everything is speeded up in the music business. In England especially, the music press has to find the Next Big Thing every issue--the next Beatles, the next Sex Pistols, the next Nirvana. It’s not like the art world or someplace where things seem to be judged in decades.

In pop music, everything is measured in months--and that’s a lot of months when you are talking about 10 years. Lots of things come and go.

Q: What was it like when you released your first album, “Psychocandy,” and people started talking about you as the new Sex Pistols--the beginning of a new era in the legacy of British rock?

Jim: I actually thought that at the time (smiles). We felt the music was great, the reviews said it was great, so why couldn’t we take it to the next level? We used to talk about the idea of taking this kind of music and play football stadiums. What we thought might happen to us did kind of happen with Nirvana.


Q: What does it do to your spirit when you don’t live up to the original promise--at least commercially?

Jim: The idea of what you call an achievement or goal changes. After the second year we realized that the idea of playing, say, Shea Stadium was hopelessly naive. There was a time after that where you really didn’t know what you are trying to do, what the goal is. By this stage of the game, however, you realize that the music itself is the goal.

Q: When did that realization hit?

Jim: It is kind of a recent thing. At the end of the ‘80s, I think we were kind of confused and a bit lost. I don’t think we made bad records because of that, but I think we got kind of slightly defeated by the whole industry and the fact that we didn’t reach the goals we set for ourselves. Now, it’s like, “(Expletive) it.”

William: I take inspiration from the fact that I’ve got two sets of favorite bands. There is the Stones and the Beatles and Dylan on one side, and then there is the Velvets, the Burrito Brothers and Subway Sect--bands that never sold a lot but were also great.

It’s like 1967 and everyone was saying what a great record “Sgt. Pepper’s” was, what a milestone in pop history. But over in New York at the same time, the Velvet Underground were making another milestone in pop history, but nobody even noticed it for years.

Q: There was lots of talk in 1992 about how Lollapalooza would help you break through to American audiences, but it didn’t happen. You came on in the middle of the afternoon and that was especially hard for you--just as it has been this year for Nick Cave. How disheartening was that whole experience?

Jim: After about two days, we wanted to leave, but we had a contract. We don’t really sell ourselves on stage. We play songs, and you take it or leave it.

William: Don’t get us wrong. I don’t think it’s bad to be a showman. I like to go to a show and get entertained, but that’s not us. Because we aren’t showmen, we normally rely on a lot of devices . . . including darkness and smoke and lights (to build an atmosphere), and we were (without them) in the daylight.

Q: What has been the critical reaction in England to the new album--to the softer style?

William: It hasn’t been good, for the most part, and I kind of expected it. Reviewers apply the word mellow to it like they are spitting dirt on you.

Q: What’s your feeling?

William: You think, (expletive). What about Neil Young and Bob Dylan and the Beatles and the Velvet Underground and Hendrix? Those people were all good at ripping your face off, but they were also good at making good, softer music.

In the studio, you try to close out what the critics are going to say or even what the fans want . . . and focus on the music inside you. If you try to figure out what others want, you are really lost. If we listened to our mother and father, we’d be making Dean Martin records.

Q: What do you think about the American music scene post-Nirvana?

Jim: After Nirvana made good, you had all these imitation bands, which is what has been going on in Britain for years.

William: I saw the Stone Temple Pilots, and I don’t believe them. It doesn’t ring true to me. To me, that guy (Scott Weiland) seems like a “Saturday Night Live” version of Kurt Cobain. He’s going through all the moves, but it’s all exaggerated and stupid. The guy who sings “Achy Breaky Heart” probably has more problems than the guy in Stone Temple Pilots.*