This is the first best-of compilation for the brothers Reid (following a few B-sides/rarities discs), and it really is about as simple as the title indicates: the A-sides of the 21 singles they released between 1984 and 1998, sequenced in the order of their release. And it works like a treat, it's fantastic stuff. If you never bought another JAMC album, you'd still have an excellent overview of the band's career just from this disc.
The Jesus & Mary Chain came screaming out of East Kilbride, Scotland, in 1984, comprised then of William & Jim Reid, Douglas Hart and Bobby Gillespie. The last-named soon buggered off to focus on his then nascent side-project Primal Scream, but prior to that he presided with the others over some of the shortest, most violent rock gigs ever, and provided a suitably primitive backbeat to the hellish sounds conjured out of their guitars by the Reid brothers.
After the fairly full-bore assault of their first album Psychocandy (1985), though, they lowered the feedback to less brain-destroying levels. Even Psychocandy (which soon became hailed as an instant classic and one of the best albums ever made) had revealed a sort of pop sensibility buried beneath the noise and distortion, and this came through somewhat more clearly on second album Darklands (1987), which replaced the departed Gillespie with programmed drumming. Hart departed before third album Automatic (1989), which left the Reid brothers working with machines and Alan Moulder as producer.
Fourth album Honey's Dead (1992) saw a return of a live drummer, plus a return flareup of the controversy that had dogged the band in its earliest days when Top Of The Pops refused to have them on the show (still, when you release a single with an opening line like "I wanna die just like Jesus Christ", perhaps that should come as no surprise). Fifth album Stoned And Dethroned (1994) saw a return to recording with a full band at last, and a move to somewhat gentler musical climates. That probably should've been the end of it, apart from the "I Hate Rock N Roll" single in 1995, except they then moved to Sub Pop for their last album Munki (1998). Coming probably too many years after their last album, it failed to shift units, the Reids had one fight too many on tour and the band was put on ice in 1999.