Certain Songs #773: The Jesus and Mary Chain – “Sometimes Always”

Album: Stoned & Dethroned
Year: 1994

And then things got dire for awhile. After the twin triumphs of Psychocandy and Darklands, the studied indifference that had always been part of the Reid brothers public personae began to creep into their music.

With the album titles hinting at the content within, 1989’s Automatic and 1992’s Honey’s Dead were . . . perfectly serviceable. The former had “Head On,” which inspired a pretty boss Pixies cover, and the later brought the noise back, but not the tunes.

So 1994’s Stoned and Dethroned, when the dumped the goddamned drum machine for a real live drummer featured and their most organic-sounding set of tunes since Darklands was a pleasant surprise indeed.

If the previous two albums had been made in their little underground, Stoned and Dethroned felt like The Jesus and Mary Chain reengaging with the world, as signified not just the actual other humans playing in their band, but key vocal cameos from Shane MacGowan on “God Help Me,” and of course, Hope Sandoval on the minor hit “Sometimes Always.”

At that time, Sandoval was riding high on the success of Mazzy Star, the snooz dream-pop duo she fronted with former Rain Parader David Roeback.

Anyways, it says something about the weird insularity of the Reids that Sandoval sang a lovers duet with Jim Reid at the same time she was — according to the Jesus and Mary Chain bio I just read — having an affair with William.

That said, the thing I always loved about “Sometimes Always” was how much of a slow burn it truly was, continually building as they traded off verses until Hope hits the climax with:

Aw you’re a lucky son
Lucky son of a gun
You went away
You went away
You went away
But now you’re ba-a-a-a-a-ack

Set off from the rest of the song by a pair of fuzzy William Reid guitar solos and climaxing with a stop-time into a drumroll during the last line, that verse was thrilling in a way their music hadn’t been in a while.

And with Jim Reid singing with some emotion, it actually felt like there were some stakes involved, so when these crazy kids got together at the end of the song, it was the rarest of all things in a Jesus and Mary Chain song — a happy ending.

“Sometimes Always” official video

“Sometimes Always” performed live in 1994

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