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Saturday, August 1, 2015

The Brian Jonestown Massacre: ...And This Is Our Music

THE BRIAN JONESTOWN MASSACRE: ...AND THIS IS OUR MUSIC (2003)

1) The Wrong Way; 2) Introesque; 3) Starcleaner; 4) Here To Go; 5) When Jokers Attack; 6) Prozac Vs. Heroin; 7) Geezers; 8) Maryanne; 9) You Look Great When I'm Fucked Up; 10) Here It Comes; 11) What Did You Say?; 12) Prozac Vs. Herion Revisited; 13) A New Low In Getting High; 14) Some Things Go Without Saying; 15) Tschusse; 16) The Pregnancy Test; 17) The Right Way.

I almost feel sorry for this, you know, but the further on we advance along the Newcombe trail, the more it starts to resemble some lonely Arizona highway where a solitary cactus causes as much excitement as Khufu's Pyramid. No, it is not true that all of his albums sound alike. This one, for instance, sees the (re-)introduction of electronic instruments that make it seem more like a traditional/modern hybrid than any of the preceding three or four records. But to what end, if the basic approach to music making remains completely the same?

Probably the most innovative and amusing touch here are the intro and outro — ʽThe Wrong Wayʼ captures one of Anton's girlfriends on the answering machine, furiously complaining about how much of an asshole he has been, and ʽThe Right Wayʼ finishes off the album with another of his lady friends (Sarah Jane from The Out Crowd) with a far more friendly message. Even those tracks, however, were apparently used by Anton without explicit permission from either of the girls (so the «asshole» component actually finds confirmation), and had to be deleted from some of the later digital versions of the album — and even if they are left in, this is as much a sign of artistic invention as it is of pointless egotism.

When it comes to the music, though, nothing helps. You would think that at least a song titled as magnificently as ʽProzac Vs. Heroinʼ could turn out to be a musical masterpiece — instead, it is just another two-chord acoustic drone lazily adorned with minimal electric guitar solos and wispy strings, as Newcombe sings in his usual «I'm-too-stoned-to-order-my-brain-to-switch-to-a-diffe­rent-note» fashion. You come here expecting some sort of musical battle, between the dark (hero­in?) and the light (prozac?) or something, and all you find is this numb droning. Pleasant enough and tastefully produced as usual, but about as exciting as your average anesthetic. And then, once it's over, you get ʽGeezersʼ which is basically five minutes more of the same.

Electronics do not help. On ʽStarcleanerʼ, you have digital keyboards and drum machines, but it is still just two and a half minutes of sleepy droning. «Astral noises» on ʽYou Look Great When You're Fucked Upʼ cannot mask the fact that it is basically just the same mind-numbing acoustic guitar pattern over and over again, and the noises themselves are as lazy in coming as the rhythm track — ʽInterstellar Overdriveʼ would come across as Slayer in terms of madness and energy when compared to this yawnfest.

The only way to somehow enjoy this record is to completely clean your head from any possible associations — just forget that music existed prior to 2003, period. Woe is me! I cannot do that, and am forever doomed to this one reaction when I hear the beginning of ʽA New Low In Getting Highʼ: «Put Neil Young in the studio, tie a 50-pound weight to each of his limbs, inject him with a pound of laxatives, make him play ʽLove And Only Loveʼ, and this is what you get». Or to this one when I force myself to become sensitive to the Grand Tragic Finale of ʽTschusseʼ: «Put Ro­bert Smith in the studio, tie a 50-pound weight to...», okay, sorry for repeating myself, but so does this guy, and at least he gets paid for this. Well, occasionally, at least.

Because of all these associations, my mind may be clouded, but this time, there is not a single song here for which my brain would voluntarily agree to allocate even a single memory cell, other than within a negative force field (as in, ʽHere It Comesʼ brings on sweet memories of Neil Young's ʽOh Lonesome Meʼ, so hey, a nice pretext to go put on After The Gold Rush one more time). Is that a sign of stubborn close-mindedness? At this moment, I don't really think I care any more — so, with a sigh of relief, as Sarah Jane says her sweet goodbyes to Anton for the third time, we leave them with a thumbs down in their hazy padded cell. And God knows I'm a big fan of padded cells in general — they're great when you can let your imagination run wild and just use the walls as a canvas. But when you're just sitting there looking at your own spit slowly dribbling from the wall down to the floor... well, not quite so exciting, I'd say.

2 comments:

  1. >inject him with a pound of laxatives

    Are you sure you don't mean "relaxants"? Unless it's a reference to the music being shitty - but that's not in keeping with your apathetic dismissal of the stuff.

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  2. George, you say of the intro and outro: "even if they are left in, this is as much a sign of artistic invention as it is of pointless egotism." I think the scales tip decisively in favor of egotism. In the notes he includes about each song, Newcombe waxes pretty self-righteous about the way others act -- hard to take from someone who apparently doesn't realize how poorly he's treating the two women whose voices he's using without permission. From an artistic standpoint, Yoko Ono's 1970s work makes far better use of this kind of "found" material.

    I do like the BJM's most recent albums, "Aufheben" and "Revelation," though. I'll be interested to hear what you think of them.

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