The Brian Jonestown Massacre
Strung Out In Heaven (TVT Records)
By: Alex Steininger
To describe the Brian Jonestown Massacre 'sound' would be a hard one. To describe the band, well, that would be mighty simple. They're one of the hardest working bands out there, I can't make it any clearer than that. Releasing four albums in a little over a year, since 1995 they've released seven albums, including STRUNG OUT IN HEAVEN, their first for TVT Records. But not only are they busy recording front man Anton Newcombe's ideas, they're busy hitting the road and supporting their music. Mixing folk, rock, pop, and psychedelia into one melting pot, their music is an absorption of culture -- both past and present.
Re-inventing their influences, from the Beatles to Bob Dylan, "Going to Hell" quickly takes you back to the 60's, when pop songs were solid all around. Mixing in a lot of old vibes, they never forget who they are and bring everything up to speed with modern culture. Anton's voice sounds like it could fit perfectly on 60's am radio, but once you look into his words and what he is saying, you know that nobody in the 60's could have came up with any of this. The band also helps paint the musical picture, creating vivid shapes and imagines that float around in your head, all through their musical canvas. Capturing the mood with nice, juicy hooks, the music definitely lives by the rules of old, "create music the kids can sing along and have fun with." "Jennifer" once again shows the bands passion for tunes they grew up on, reaching far back into their youth and creating music that influenced them and brought them too the point they are now. The percussion is light and fluffy, helping to add a dreamy quality to the music. The vocals are rich and warming, inviting the listener to come towards the music. All while the bass is slowly thumping along, enriching the music with a deep tone, and the guitar is adding a folk quality through its acoustic nature. Never forgetting to keep the pop hooks cleverly obvious, the song never loses focus or your interest. "Love" brings in the organ to help warm the sound up, and it does a good job of it. Hating to use comparisons, the song hits me as a number that the Beatles and Beck would whip up if only they were from the same musical time periods. Since they're not, BJM is able to do what would have only been eminent had the Beatles still been around. Besides Anton Newcombe, however, the Brian Jonestown Massacre has another songwriter...Matt Hollywood. Showing his stuff on "Spun," he proves to be a great songwriting companion for Anton. Both have a knack for great melodies and pop hooks, and when they're done the band compliments their ideas perfectly and adds their own little touch to the song, making it a BJM tune. Re-working a track that originally appears on their debut disc, METHODRONE, they bring back "Wisdom" and pump new life into it. A nice close for a great album.
Many bands have created a tired old sound known as 'modern rock,' and one of the things the Brian Jonestown Massacre strives to do is bring back their old influences and bring them to the attention of listeners today claiming, "There's nothing wrong with listening to this stuff...here try something we grew up on!" In the process, they create an album (or better yet...a sound) that will not only take you back to a life and time that was less complex and a whole lot easier, but they will also take you to a mental place where you feel safe and secure, where fun is the only thing you need to worry about. I'll give this disc an A.
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