The Brian Jonestown Massacre
Bravery Repetition and Noise (Evil/Bomp)
by Brain Varney
Well, just call me ’60s boy this week. The last I-dunno-how-many reviews I’ve written have been about bands paying tribute to the ’60s in some way or another, something which does not change as The Brian Jonestown Massacre rises to the top of the pile. It’s kinda funny since I’m one of the stoner/heavy rock guys around here and there’s nothing stoner or heavy about any of this stuff (although drugs are unquestionably part of the equation). And while there are many things I like about ’60s rock (the number of which seems to increase exponentially as I grow older), there are just as many that I don’t like (such as the damn hippie thing). So I guess I’m on shaky ground. Still, as long as no one passes me any brown acid or anything by Grateful Dead, Phish, or String Cheese Incident, I suppose I’ll be OK.
This is the first stuff I’ve heard by TBJM. Much like The Soundtrack of Our Lives (who, in case you didn’t know, are the greatest band in the world), TBJM are quite set on emulating their ’60s rock heroes, and they’re not above blatantly stealing a riff or two to do it (I’ve heard TBJM did an album-length tribute to Their Satanic Majesties Request). The similarities between the bands end there, though. Bravery Repetition and Noise is a labor of love, with main dude Anton Alfred Newcombe writing everything, playing most of the instruments, and co-producing as well. You’re in for a fat dose of Moogs, mellotrons, and fuzz guitars, but this is not garage rock in any way, shape, or form. Sure, it’s rough and a bit unformed in parts, but nothing that would sound at home on a Pebbles comp. There are strings, fer chrissakes, not to mention Newcombe’s anguished vocals, which bring to mind Mark Eitzel minus the nauseating self-pity (yeah, I know, haha).
Still, the performances are a reasonable facsimile of a living, breathing band. Things are occasionally a bit rough-around-the-edges, but some people prefer that sort of thing. And there are some great songs, especially “Open Heart Surgery,” which first appeared on last year’s teaser Zero EP and is, to my ears, the album’s highlight.
I don’t get the whole “Committee to Keep Music Evil” thing (these songs being about as evil as a bowl of vanilla pudding) or the Jim Jarmusch photo on the cover, but willful obscurity has been an integral part of the indie aesthetic for as long as I can remember, so I suppose there’s no point in questioning it now.
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