Anton Alfred Newcombe is some kind of workhorse. His band, the Brian Jonestown Massacre, has put together a handsome discography, a decades worth of blood, sweat and tears as well as big ti
ts, moogs and drugs. But in spite of his tenure (or because of it) Newcombe is a bit of a secondary character in the scheme of all things rock and roll. That’s not to say he couldn’t be a head liner if given the chance. Hey, if dysfunctions are what they people want, Newcombe can do that. If they want to hear some good music, he can probably do that too.
So we get ...And This Is Our Music
, another agreeable release from our friends at the Committee to Keep Music Evil. Agreeable is a good way to define the Brian Jonestown Massacre. They’re the perfect meal; something hearty and appetizing, no noticeable aftertaste, you can probably finish them in one sitting and, unless your allergic to bohemian flavoring, you won’t get the runs. Worse case scenario, you’ll forget you ate them in the first place and you’ll have a nice healthy shi
Not unlike those Polyphonic Spree folks, Newcombe employs a small orchestra of musicians to aid him in his writhing Their Satanic Majesties era Stones rock. It’s roughly psychedelic in the same way as the aforementioned Prophylactic Spree cats, except I don’t think they’re as big on the whole robes thing although Newcombe’s God affixation seems as strong as a certain Texan sent by God to rule with an iron fist and mispronounce words on the side.
The album opens with a jilted lover giving Newcombe a completely inappropriate phone message, full of evil words that I won’t repeat here like fuc
k and ba
stard and shi
t. The liner notes have a little comment about each song, random thoughts from the mind of Newcombe which are actually pretty nice. Following the little outburst is a vaporous piece of electronica, just a little segue that Newcombe calls, “the sound inside my head when people talk at me instead of with me." Indeed.
The first real track is “Starcleaner." Vocals are split among the band’s members, Newcombe’s liner notes suggest each person was picked at random on the spot. Lyrically, it’s a bit of cheese. The track is ripe with a steady electronic influence, a drum machine hammers out a simple beat for Newcombe and the mysterious “Rob" whose spacious Hammond organ is quite prominent on the track. The torpid pace is familiar territory for the Brian Jamestown Massacre but the electronic overtures are a welcome addition, a digital alteration to BJM’s mostly organic flavor.
“Here To Go" repeats the trick, another bit of sleepy drone. “Jason Pierce, Beck pretending to be Nick Drake and getting away with it." Somewhat accurate, especially the Spiritualized nod. The shadow of Jason Pierce looms long over these kinds of tracks on ...And This Is Our Music
, which sound large and orchestral. Once again, the liner notes provide a good comparison for “When Jokers Attack." “The Dandy’s used to rule, ok? Now we rule! Join us!" Newcombe says, referring to the Dandy Warhols. The Dandy’s and the BJM used to be fairly close knit and “When Jokers Attack" displays that, a small dose of adrenaline spat from beyond the lazy strokes of the album’s opening tracks.
“Prozac vs. Heroin" is a bombastic tune in all senses. The vocals are fairly intelligible and sound roughly spiritual in a sneering, faux-British accent way. “Geezers" seems like a logical progression from “Prozac vs. Heroin." It sucks, to be honest. The tunes are kind of nice in a glassy shoegazer sort of way but both sound like too much effort was put into cramming as many instruments into the mix as humanly possible. “Maryanne" provides a nice change-up from these bulging numbers. Just some nice acoustic plucks and what I originally thought sounded like an accordion but could be something else. Got me. Makes for a nice, longing love song though.
“You Look Great When I’m ***ed Up" is a nice track because it blends post-rock with the spaghetti western. Newcombe name checks Ennio Morricone at this point in his liner notes which is completely accurate. Spacious like rolling desert plains in a Clint Eastwood movie. Some guy named Joseph supplies a fantastic whistle to the song, while the piece builds and envelopes like an electronic, six minute Morricone soundtrack. We return back to the loping Spiritualized-inspired pop of the first couple tracks for “Here It Comes." This one is probably better executed than the others, its simplicity and the dash of female backing vocals put it just over the top of the others. After “Here It Comes," we get shipped off to Brazil’s Carnival for “What Did You Say?", a two minute, South American stomp. A complete diversion but an interesting one. Doesn’t stand too well outside of the album, though.
I do hope the electronic influence sticks around past this album. “Prozac vs. Heroin Revisited" is a Kraftwerk-inspired tune that sounds absolutely nothing like anything the band has done beyond ...And This Is Our Music. It’s a cool little electronica jam, nothing fancy or even all that well executed but it’s got a cool charm of it’s own. It’s great to see a band like BJM expand their palette and this track, as well as the other mechanical glimpses the album afford, give hope for future releases. Honestly, the BJM had been getting quite stale in their work so the musical about face is more than welcome.
“A New Long In Getting High" takes a page out from the book of Aussie psych-revivalists, The Church (“No, not the empty building where they fuc
k boys in the ass," Newcombe remarks.) Not a lot of people have heard of The Church. They were a nice band and this song is a nice imitation of their style which is not far from BJM's bluesy psychedelia of the Stones, the Byrds and the Velvet Underground. “Some Things Go Without Saying" is definitely my favorite track on the album, a far-too-short instrumental that’s like an upbeat “Maryanne." The beat sounds like it was pounded out on the body of the same acoustic that strums the summery tune. Quick, no nonsense, quite nice.
The last appropriate song is “Tschusse," which might be Danish for “god dam
n I’m depressed" but is probably just made up or something. I don’t know. I plead ignorance here. It’s a great downer song, although I can’t help but imagine that every singer on every track is faking their British accent. They’re from the West Coast, I'll have you know. Oh well. “Tschusse" lilts along like a love lorn drunkard. It opens with mournful horns and strings and a steady, tambourine-aided rhythm as the vocalist recollects tears on the pillow and stuff like that. It’s a really lovely song, a good track for feeling a bit down. We get another little electronic number called “The Pregnancy Test" before the album closes with another phone message from Sarah Jane, the caller from the album opener. The album opener is called “The Wrong Way" and this track is called “The Right Way." What a nice girl.
...And This Is Our Music
is a fairly eccentric album from a fairly eccentric artist, Anton Newcombe, and his band. In between phone calls, he seems like a good enough guy and in between decades, he sure made himself out to be a good artist. He’s got better albums that this one, although none lately. ...And This Is Our Music
comes with high regard to fans of the Polyphonic Spree, Galaxy 500, Spiritualized, Spacemen 3 and other assorted neo-psychedelic bands of the indie persuasion. The whole religious vibe ought to be taken tongue in cheek mostly because the band seems like a smarmy bunch. But I don’t know ‘em so who knows and who cares. A three for the music, a point five for the entertaining liner notes.