Can we at least agree that William and Jim Reid both had great hair? mike laye

DAVE SEGAL: To best appreciate the nuclear-bomb-like impact of the Jesus and Mary Chain's Psychocandy, you needed to hear it upon release during 1985 pop/rock's gaudy malaise. (Better yet, you should've heard JAMC's urgent, caustic 1984 debut single, "Upside Down.") But failing that happy accident of birth, you should put the album's emergence in the context of the era's landscape, dominated as it was by MTV faves like Bruce Springsteen, Duran Duran, Don Henley, Tears for Fears, and Thompson Twins. Then along came these sullen, brutish Scots, sneaking wild-honeyed, Beach Boys–like melodies into the sort of noise tsunamis that made the Velvet Underground's "I Heard Her Call My Name" seem placid. Psychocandy was the enema rock direly needed in the middle of the Reagan dynasty. Brothers William and Jim Reid proved that paint-peeling cacophony could coexist with super-sweet tunes in a rock context, and even get major-label backing while doing so (Blanco y Negro was a UK subsidiary of WEA Records Ltd.). There was nothing quite like it in that decade—or in any previous one, for that matter.

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EMILY NOKES: DON'T TELL ME WHEN TO BE BORN, DAVE SEGAL. Just kidding, I know you're just trying to help me not be an idiot, but I have to respectfully disagree: While there may have been nothing like it in 1985, there has been much like it since, and... and... Oh! I'm sorry, did I just fall asleep while trying to type about dudes playing loud/distorted music?

Before the torches and pitchforks (and Pitchforks) come after me, let me first say: I don't hate Psychocandy—hell, I like amphetamines and bad attitudes just as much as the next guy. I don't even necessarily dislike it, but this album especially represents a tricky sliver that gets caught in my foot from time to time with music that is my same age or older: CONTEXT. You're right—I lose out on the first foundation of the album's "ideal listening conditions" because I was a dumb 1-year-old when the Jesus and Mary Chain spewed their grating opus onto the hungry, 'Steen-hating youth of the USA. (Worse still, I was an even-less-brilliant 1-month-old when the mushy/prickly "Upside Down" came out.) Normally, I love a shapeless mess, in terms of music (and dresses), but to my ears, Psychocandy sounds commonplace and boring—which unfortunately comes with the territory of being considered verrrrrry influential/verrrrry groundbreaking. Disaffected drug dudes plus distortion? No way! Sorry I saw the future, guys, but it's already pretty full of guitars.

True, the "had to be there" argument is deafening here, but is that all you've got?

DAVE SEGAL: Oh, I've got more. But let's deal with the gravest accusation. You mean "commonplace and boring" like a hurricane that carries traces of Phil Spector's girl groups, the Velvets, the Beach Boys, Suicide, and Lee Hazlewood, I presume? Okay, Emily: I guess if that's your definition of "commonplace and boring," you'll probably "Never Understand." [Rim shot] Speaking of: That song represents the Reid bros' pinnacle of capturing teen angst, fucked-up love situations, and (im)pure sonic catharsis. JAMC could've retired after dropping "Upside Down" and "Never Understand" and still deserved canonization. But Psychocandy keeps delivering greatness throughout. Its magic lies in the contrast—and combination—of sweetness and harshness (again, "Never Understand" is the apotheosis). I mean, "Cut Dead" is the best bubblegum Leonard Cohen number ever, and cool moms worldwide can swoon to it. Yet on the other pale, bony hand, JAMC can prick up the ears of Motörhead fans with a burner like "In a Hole." That kind of range is rare (see also: Velvet Underground & Nico). Even if you were to assemble an orchestra of harps, theremins, and glockenspiels to play all 15 songs off Psychocandy, they'd still sound insolent.

EMILY NOKES: No accusations, Dave, only feelings. "Pinnacle of capturing teen angst"? Believe me, I wish I could feel that instead of playing the millennial foil here (so we could just get back to arguing about Phil Collins or whatever). My giant shrug for this album is odd even to me, because I love noise in pop and pop in noise! And Psychocandy's contrary elements are there ON PAPER. The sweet girl-group sensibility is there. The harsh hiss is there (and there, and there, and there). But where's that magic? "Taste the Floor" and "In a Hole" get there—discordant enough to be defiant, melodic enough to be interesting—but the album doesn't scream "canon" for me, it slurs "pretty good."

I'll take your (and everyone's) word that this once qualified as bona fide insolence, but again, I'm only hearing a "time and place" argument—yet another album that requires a thesis statement and timeline attached as a prerequisite for appreciating it. Suicide's first album is a glorious stomachache—uncomfortable, saccharine, monotonous, melodic, terrifying—and you could hear that in a vacuum, in any decade. Psychocandy's shtick just kinda makes me tired, and toward the end of the album I want to physically peel back the static noise (which was never that brutal to begin with, just omnipresent—"hurricane" my foot) to get some idea of what's going on under there. Which is precisely what they did on Darklands, and precisely why that album is better JAMC. Blasphemy, I know, but after being told for so long that I HAD to genuflect to Psychocandy, I suppose I'm rebelling against the rebellion.

DAVE SEGAL: Emily, I respect your shrug for the Jesus and Mary Chain's masterwork, This could be nostalgia talking, but time has only cemented Psychocandy in my heart and mind, as undeniable a landmark as Marquee Moon or Entertainment! For best results, don't listen via earbuds/iPhone.

EMILY NOKES: While I think we all know who had it harder here—the rock 'n' roll encyclopedia defending a universally praised album versus the upstart earbuds lady (AS IF, Dave) wondering if anyone else can see the emperor's junk—but thank you for indulging me. While every other musician and album you've mentioned in this piece deserves every bit of worship, I'll just chalk Psychocandy up to requiring a gramophone and an ear trumpet to enjoy. (Sickest burn!)

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DAVE SEGAL: Oh, Emily.

EMILY NOKES: Oh, Dave. recommended

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