Review Summary: A psychedelic album best listened to intoxicated.
The three previous albums released by the Brian Jonestown Massacre (BJM) have always been referred to as "a golden trio" and the finest of Anton Newcombe's and Matt Hollywood's work in songwriting and of the band's best performances in the studio. The albums marked the connection to their namesake (most directly in the title of "Their Satanic Majesties Second Request") and steered the band away from the shoegaze genre from the first two albums to the neo-psychedelia they're best known for. However, this album should receive as much, if not more recognition as the previous three.
What's interesting about this album is that it's basically the soundtrack of the movie "Dig!", the famous documentary made about the band (and their colleagues: the Dandy Warhols) as most of the footage Ondi Timoner collected in the making of the film is taken from the time of the making of the album. Since the film doesn't include excerpt of the songs lasting longer than ten seconds, "Give It Back!" is the album for everyone who liked the excerpts, but want the songs (most of them at least).
The overall sound of the album is excellently captured in the strange and mystical beginning of the opening track "Super Sonic". A low-pitched, strange psychedelic collection of Anton Newcombe's manic and mad mind, just described with audio. It is interrupted by a sitar riff, and some hypnotizing, repetitive drum rhythms.The guitar interplay on "Sue" is the BJM's skills with several different types of guitars and guitar sounds at its best.The sitars, flowingly and at the same time intensely played guitars and at times strange lyrics dominate most of the songs on the album. It may be important to note that most of Newcombe's compositions were written, arranged and recorded in the course of the week-end it took to make the album. It's overall composed of songs you just want to slowly move your head to as you look at your hands, exclaiming "Wow!". A desired effect of psychedelics and therefore also in the spirit of psychedelic music.
There are some notable exceptions to the groove of the album. The most evident one being Anton's first mate Matt Hollywood's only song on the album "Not If You Were The Last Dandy On Earth". Meant as an answer to the Dandy Warhols song about the band's drug use "Not If You Were The last Junkie On Earth" its intense riff, fast rhythm and keyboard bass resembles more the early work of the Dandys (which was intentional) than the rest of Anton's songs. It was released as a single, where in my opinion, it should have stayed. However, Matt did not neglect the spirit of the album during its making, as he both improvised the opening riff to "Whoever You Are" in the studio and helped Anton finish a lot of the lyrics of the songs included on the album. I miss more Hollywood as on their previous releases, putting in a variation to an already fabulous collection of Newcombe songs.
However, Newcombe is wise in his choice of instrumentation and band members contributing in all the tracks. The mad genius he is, he recorded for instance the manic "The Devil May Care (Mom And Dad Don't)" playing all the instruments alone on new years eve '96-'97. The middle section includes a strange clip of fiddles and voices gently interrupting the song. In a way, it all adds to the feeling of loneliness and biographical songwriting in the track, which is very a welcome one. In "Servo", he and Matt do everything, Matt playing the acoustic guitar and Anton playing the catchy riff tearing through the lonely synth opening the song. A female guest artist also appear on the album. Miranda Lee Richards serves the band well with her vocals on "Super Sonic", "Sue" and "You Better Love Me Before I Am Gone". It's not the first time the BJM uses a female singer on their albums. It's worked before. Their number one song on the streaming program Spotify is proof of that.
Another bizarre song on the track list is "Their Satanic Majesties Second Request (Enrique's Dream)". Which really is not a song in the sense of the other tracks on the album, but instead gives you memories of the Beatles' "Revolution 9". Consisting of some twisted synth sounds, Jim Jones preaching and a creepy, backwards played strings riff, it is a token of Anton's obsession with Jim Jones and nightmares filled fear and terror. For that is exactly what the song is: fear and terror mixed with desperate confusion. But however bizzare it may be, it fits in with the rest of the album as a piece of the jigsaw puzzle that is Anton Newcombe's mind. I imagine you would be terrified listening to it on acid.
To summarize, "Give It Back" is an album best enjoyed while in an intoxication of some sort, or at least in a trippy mood. If you're listening to the whole album at least. It's not that you have to get high to get through, not all, but rather that the album's feel and groove just suits an altered state of mind. Some songs, like "Servo" and "Not If You Were The Last Dandy On Earth" are well listened to alone, but to a BJM fan, it would not satisfy one's needs. Despite some mildly displaced songs, the album gives an excellent view into Anton's lyrical world and thoughts, and gives us a representative piece of his musicality and song-writing ability. Therefore i give it a 4/5 as i put it into my CD player.
Enjoy the evening!