Brian Jonestown Drive-By


The last couple of days, I have been doing a Tepid Peppermint taste-test of Brian Jonestown Massacre (BJM) in my car for you, my faithful reader. There are tracks that are fantastic and others, you are like, Anton, dude, lay off the heroin dude! Well, here we go.

1995’s Methodrone features the excellent That Girl Suicide which I’d call “classic” BJM song. Hide and Seek also has its advantages. However, the rest of the album is pretty hard to follow. The word folks used was “shoe-gazers”.

In 1996, BJM was incredibly active with Take It From the Man, Their Satanic Majesties’ Second Request, and Thank God for Mental Illness. Of the three, Take It From the Man is at least for me the best of the lot. Vacuum Boots, Oh Lord, Take It From the Man and Mary Please are excellent. All kinds of mashups of the Stones, the Velvet Underground, and whatever else was lying around in the studio and in Anton’s heroin-soaked brain. There is also the emblematic Straight Up and Down that is featured in Boardwalk Empire’s opening sequence.

Of the other two albums, Sue is incredibly morose in terms of lyrics but totally badass in terms of music. Anemone is the highlight for me of His Satanic Majesty’s Second Request. 1997’s Give It Back gave us Servo and Not if you were the last Dandy on Earth. I thought I had blogged about this before but if you haven’t seen it, the movie Dig! which talks about the parallel paths in the late 90’s of The Dandy Warhols and BJM is outstanding. The factuality of the rivalry between the two bands is under question but it still makes for a great movie. And honestly, I still listen to BJM whereas I haven’t heard a Dandy’s song in, well, a long time.

To be honest, the albums after this Strung Out in Heaven, Bravery, Repetition and Noise, And This is Out Music, and My Bloody Underground are a bit inaccessible to me. They have some good melodies but have less raw energy and suffer from the absenteeism of Anton during various battles with heroin I suppose. In particular, My Bloody Underground probably would sound better with two hits of acid than completely stone cold sober in traffic but then maybe I am not open minded.

To end on an optimistic note, I haven’t yet obtained Who Killed Sgt Pepper but judging by the EP Smoking Acid, this work done in Iceland seems to have brought back some energy to BJM. They still wander but I do like That Serious Matter and I Alvaru Talaau. I think that to appreciate Super Fucked, that you have to be Super Fucked though.

Overall, BJM is an incredibly prolific group once you get over Anton’s ego and drug habits. There are some incredible morsels if you chew long enough. And by the way, if you don’t wanna chuck out the cash for all 12 albums, the greatest hits collection Tepid Peppermint Wonderland: A Retrospective has highlights up to just before My Bloody Underground. A well-recommended introduction to this very eclectic – and nonetheless successful – band.


About mfinocchiaro

IT Architecture Guru for large PLM software company but dabbling in Web 2.0 and other stuff.
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