Brian Jonestown Massacre CD review [The Committee to Keep Music Evil / Bomp]

Music Reviews
Brian Jonestown Massacre CD review [The Committee to Keep Music Evil / Bomp]
Jun 3, 2003, 19:33


BRIAN JONESTOWN MASSACRE Spacegirl & Other Favorites CD

You can measure a musician's artistic vision (and subsequent lack of commercial appeal) by the size of the chip on his/her shoulder. In the case of BJM's Anton Newcombe, it's reached proportions known only to Sisyphus (i.e. a boulder several times his own size, being pushed uphill by his own will alone.) Fair enough, he's a determined prick—countless band member changes, on-stage fights, major label woes, other bands stealing and succeeding with his aesthetic, etc. But, determination doesn't mean he shits gold, nor does it mean anyone else should give a fuck regardless of the quality of work. At random and unprovoked recently in NYC, Newcombe accosted my friend and I in order to decry all “hipsters.” As if all music and style began with him and anyone without his permission to exist is clearly jumping his train. But for reasons that make sense if you've lived in the constantly-regenerating hipster hive of San Francisco—as Newcombe and I both have—I know of the exact frustrations he must feel as a musician with a vision that synthesizes and encompasses many elements of the past. SF has a scene for everyone, creative synthesis need not apply. If you want to be Sky Saxon '68, you can be that. If you want to be Ray Davies '74, you can be him. If you want to be the Indian from the Village People '79, you can be he. It's “all good” and an acceptable surrogate for creating something of your own. And, funny thing is, Brian Jonestown Massacre was always be seen in “the scene” as an amalgam of certifiable hipster wasteoids out to rip off the 60s, after having dropped its shoegazer drone fetish. Throughout nearly all of the 90s, Newcombe's revolving-door retro-hybrid concept was compromised and undercut by the myriad talentless and redundant scene-clone garage-punk bands that litter the California landscape. And some (The Warlocks, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club) were begun by former members of his own band. But, the thing that this reissue of early recordings and demo tracks demonstrates is that Newcombe has had a vision to merge 60s psych with 90s Brit-pop drone in a very unique way. Whereas recent BJM releases have continued to mine the nodding-off haze of Manchester Stones-drone to nauseating effect with pallid and uninteresting songs, these early recordings sound downright fresh and catchy in comparison. “Crushed” borrows heavily from My Bloody Valentine, but has a great lead guitar riff that's bolstered by ringing feedback, pulsating drum machine and urgent vocals sung with much more oomph than the now-signature lazy drawl of recent BJM records. The hints of future Byrds-inflected work are apparent on these strong-yet-simple tracks, but it's also readily apparent that Newcombe's always been a musical thief and histrionic “hipster” wanting desperately to be considered a musical genius. Nope. But, he can dress and act the part. [The Committee to Keep Music Evil/Bomp]

-Dave Clifford

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