Sister Vanilla
Little Pop Rocks
Chemical Underground

Correct me if I’m wrong here. I’ve been under the impression that the Jim Reid and William Reid had hated each other for years. On Munki, their last album as The Jesus and Mary Chain, Jim wrote “I Love Rock and Roll,” while William wrote the album’s closer, “I Hate Rock and Roll.” If that wasn’t enough proof that the Brothers Reid weren’t exactly seeing eye to eye, then that trainwreck of a tour in support of Munki, the one that ultimately caused the dissolution of the band, should have done it.

Now, earlier this year, there was all the hoopla about The Jesus and Mary Chain reunion, and Jim Reid was quoted as saying, “It’s taken this long for me and William to get to a point where it would be realistic to (get back together), and to some degree each of us assumed the other wouldn’t be interested, and it was only after we talked about it that we realised this. Also Coachella were very persistent.” The Pitchfork story would go on to add that solo albums from each Reid brother would be out later this year, more JAMC shows were possible, and maybe even a new JAMC album.

So, it was more than a bit surprising when it was announced this past week that a new album was due out by Sister Vanilla in April, a band who feature Jim Reid, William Reid, their sister Linda Reid, and fellow Jesus and Mary Chain alum, Ben Lurie on bass. Even more surprising is the fact that the songs on Little Pop Rocks have been years in the making. If you’re scratching your head at this point, it’s ok, ’cause so am I. The only thing keeping Sister Vanilla’s Little Pop Rocks, from being a full fledged reunion album is the fact that Linda Reid, not Jim or William, provides the bulk of the vocals on this one, that, and the fact that they’re not using the JAMC name.

Musically, Little Pop Rocks, plays like the logical follow up to 1998’s Munki, or a plugged in version of 1994’s Stoned and Dethroned. There are some quieter accoustic moments on Little Pop Rocks, like “Pastel Blue,” and slow drawn out bluesy numbers like “Slacker”, “Kissaround”, and “Angel” that wouldn’t sound terribly out of place on Stoned and Dethroned. The main difference being Linda’s voice, of course. Her light, airy voice carries hints of innocence, while Jim and William are more apt to channel a sense of damage or danger. The mid-tempo fuzzy guitar pop of “Can’t Stop The Rock,” Linda Reid’s companion piece to “I Love Rock and Roll” and “I Hate Rock and Roll” fits right in with the sounds of Munki. Thankfully, the Reids waited to let this one out. It was hard enough to have one brother hating rock and one brother loving it, without having the third family member feeling powerless against it.

It’s difficult to listen to Sister Vanilla and wonder what could have been had Linda Reid not been the one handling vocals. Lines like “I’ve had money and drugs and fame, I pissed my money all down the drain/I pissed all day/I pissed all night/I pissed my mother/I pissed his wife” from the sinister, droning blues on, “What Goes Around,” would sound infinitely cooler had William or Jim been behind the mic. Not only that, but with lyrics hinting at the drug problems that lent a hand to killing the Jesus and Mary Chain the first time around, it’s down right strange to hear Linda apologizing for the behavior of her brothers. Additionally, when Jim or William take the lead, as Jim does on the first verse of “Jamcolas,” a number whose heavily echoed production and programmed drum beats will have long time fans thinking Darklands, it’s even harder to accept the fact that this isn’t a Jesus and Mary Chain album. The Reid Brothers are merely playing the supporting role for Linda. This problem is only worsened when Linda namechecks the Jesus and Mary Chain albums Psychocandy and Honey’s Dead while professing her admiration for her brothers’ band on “K To Be Lost.”

Ultimately, your enjoyment of Little Pop Rocks, will rest heavily on your ability to accept Sister Vanilla for what they are, and not spend terrible amounts of time lamenting what they aren’t. Sister Vanilla is a band influenced by The Jesus and Mary Chain, who just happen to feature three people that played in the band. They’re not The Jesus and Mary Chain. Trust me, you’ll drive yourself nuts if you treat this like a Jesus and Mary Chain album. Despite the production that’s unmistakably by The Jesus and Mary Chain, an album’s worth of guitar sounds that are distinctly from Jim and William Reid, and the cameos behind the mic for the brothers, this is not The Jesus and Mary Chain. This is sister Linda Reid’s moment in the spotlight as the lead singer for Sister Vanilla, and she’s very capable at leading the boys in the band.

MP3:Sister Vanilla – Can’t Stop The Rock [download] MP3:Sister Vanilla – Jamcolas [download]

Repeat after me. Little Pop Rocks is not a Jesus and Mary Chain album. Little Pop Rocks stands well on its own. 7 1/2 out of 10 on The Rockometer.