New Towns to Tokyo

A photograph of the brothers from East Kilbride whose band soundtracked one of modern cinema's most talked-about moments has gone on display at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.

In the closing scene of Sofia Coppola’s award-winning cult film Lost in Translation, amid a bustling metropolis of neon and nameless faces, Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson’s characters embrace, share an indiscernible whisper, kiss and then part ways.

It is a bittersweet scene, tinged with both tears and twinkled eyes, simultaneously straddling longing and closure. It has also spurred fervent online discussion of what words comprised that famed mysterious mutter.

Lost in Translation, 2003 © American Zoetrope / Sofia Coppola

Sound tracking this whole emotive departure and subsequent shots of the Tokyo skyline is the subdued thump of a drum-beat and the lozenge-like, sky-stretching guitar wash of ‘Just Like Honey’, lifted from the debut album of The Jesus and Mary Chain, the East Kilbride band whose feedback-drenched melodies – like the aforementioned movie – found their own cult following, way back in the 1980s.

Formed in 1983 by brothers Jim and William Reid, The Jesus and Mary Chain’s 35 year career has been as eventful as they’ve been culturally impactful; they were signed by Alan McGee a good decade before he put Oasis in parties with the Prime Minister, Bobby Gillespie drummed their songs before the world first heard his own primal screams, they’ve sparred with fans, fell-out, split-up, rekindled, shared a stage with Scarlett at Coachella and the ripples of their pioneering output – spawning countless imitations – is still evident today, none more so than in Japan where they remain massively popular. Not forgetting that the South Lanarkshire lads’ universally-acclaimed debut Pyschocandy made the cut onto Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.

Brian David Stevens, Jim and William Reid (The Jesus and Mary Chain) (2008), © Brian David Stevens

The nation’s other musically-famous Reid brothers feature as our latest Topical Sitter at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, in this portrait from photographer Brian David Stevens, to coincide with Rip It Up – The Story of Scottish Pop, the National Museum of Scotland’s excellent, ephemera-infused treasure trove of a show which casts a faithful eye upon Scottish songwriting throughout the years. And from the band instrumental in bringing everyone shoegaze, well now everyone can – quite literally – gaze at their shoes, with some suede sliders once wrapped around the feet of bassist Douglas Hart among the celebratory memorabilia on display in the Museum’s sonic spectacle.

Stevens’ image, which captured the brothers at Camden’s Roundhouse a decade ago, entered Scotland’s national art collection earlier this year, and with the two settings in the heart of a spirited capital city, can be soaked up in the same afternoon.

And much like they’ve done with the characters in Coppola’s cinematic masterpiece, revelers can continue to debate and be transfixed by the Reid brothers’ electric, oscillating, symbiotic chemistry, the one that’s seen them utter a unique musical language few can speak, but many across the world can readily understand, and with none of that lost in translation.

8 August 2018