The Sound of Speed was released in 1993 and is a second helping of Jesus and Mary Chain B-sides, or non-album tracks, following on from Barbed Wire Kisses. So just what we all need then. It opens with Snakedriver, a bit like a slowed-down Ramones meets the Ronettes but then explodes into life with Reverence. It sounds kind of quaint now but it attracted considerable controversy over Jim Reid’s lyrics: “I wanna die just like Jesus Christ, I wanna die on a bed of spikes” etc. What’s overlooked is that this noisy, abrasive single reached the upper reaches of the singles chart. It takes a vaguely hip-hop beat and overlays it with sheets of William Reid’s guitar, with a neat reference to the Stooges’ I Wanna Be Your Dog. Equally noisy is Lowlife, which is excellently described by its title.
Elseswhere, they display their sunnier, almost hippy side with the lazy strums of Why’d You Want Me and Don’t Come Down. These tracks work, but an attempt at an acoustic version of Teenage Lust is less successful, neutering the original. They turn cover versions of Guitarman, Tower of Song and Little Red Rooster into their own standard issue black holes, the gloopy version of the latter is almost unrecognisable from the original. They take a different tack with My Girl, turning in a hopelessly bored, acoustic cover.
Something I Can’t Have showcases their exuberant side, bursting from the speakers with Jim Reid making lyrics like “you’re in my house, you’re in my face, you made me hate the human race” sound triumphant over ringing guitars. Sometimes, which follows, is similarly upbeat. Later, Shimmer is more subdued, with shades of the Velvet Underground thrown in, while Penetration is a pretty awful experiment with keyboards and a dance-beat.
It’s the sound of the band branching out and trying new things (relative to their older output) so it’s pretty hit and miss, but it’s quite fun to listen to.