The Jesus and Mary Chain’s first hit, Just Like Honey, is one of the greatest rock songs of all time. This is as close to objective fact as you can get in the music world.
If you’re not familiar, you’ll know what I mean:
Last night I dug out my DVD of Lost In Translation, the 2003 yearning romance written and directed by Sophia Coppola. I hadn’t seen the film in nearly a decade, partially because I wanted it to remain special. It arrived at a pivotal time in my life and helped drive my evolving tastes as I entered my twenties. Thankfully, the film has aged perfectly, capturing the ennui of travelers adrift in Tokyo as well as career-best performances from both leads, Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson. The haunting atmosphere is due in no small part to the incredible score by guitar god Kevin Shields, of My Bloody Valentine. Shields’ dreamlike instrumental pieces were his first published works since the era-defining Loveless dropped in 1991, acting as the connective tissue between a set of expertly selected tracks from a variety of artists across the twentieth century and beyond.
Everyone knows the karaoke scene, with Johansson’s pink wig take on The Pretenders’ Brass In Pocket and Murray’s deadpan rendition of More Than This by Roxy Music. It’s the quietly explosive moment when a relationship begins to bloom between the two would-be lovers. But the real heart of the film comes at the very end, when Murray leaps from his cab out of town to chase down the woman he’s come so close to making a connection with. As they kiss, he whispers something inscrutable in her ear and the unmistakeable opening drum beat of Just Like Honey erupts. A smile cracks on every face in the audience. It’s perfect.
The Jesus and Mary Chain, centered on Scottish brothers Jim and William Reid, released their debut album in 1985. While it was a minor hit at the time, it kicked off the entire shoegaze genre that Kevin Shields eventually ended a few years later with an album that defined and destroyed the aesthetic with overwhelming, distorted force. The sound on this early record was indebted to post-punk guitar innovation as much as 60s wall-of-sound pop from the likes of Phil Spector. In fact, you can hear the same drum sound echoed in one of the most well-known pop hits of all time, Be My Baby by The Ronettes.
Just Like Honey is a picture of cool, the kind of song that makes me reach for sunglasses and a leather jacket, wishing for a cool breeze to blow my hair back. It breathes romance and danger with the thick smell of nostalgia. It’s a song to lose myself into over and over again. When the song gets lodged in my head for days, I welcome it back with open arms.
I’ve returned to this song again and again over the years, and probably will continue to do so for the rest of my life.