Archive for Dandy Warhols

Triumphant Tours By The Brian Jonestown Massacre and The Dandy Warhols Led Us Back To “Dig!”

Posted in Music with tags , , , , on July 21, 2014 by johnbuckley100

Throughout this summer of triumphant European tours by both the Brian Jonestown Massacre and the Dandy Warhols, our Twitter feed has been stuffed with the retweets of avid fans overflowing with excitement over having just seen one band or the other.

On a given July morning, you might see this retweeted by Anton Newcombe (band leader and skillful social media tour director of BJM):

Or this tweet posted by The Dandy Warhols:

Given that alternate nights at this year’s Austin Psych Fest were headlined by the two bands — famous for their friendship, rivalry, their frenemy status — and that day by day, as we would see these alternating reports on how great their shows each were the night before — the Dandys in Dusseldorf, the BJM in Oslo (or wherever) — a few days ago, on a long plane flight, we were compelled to re-watch  Dig!, Ondi Timoner’s 2004 film that chronicles seven years of the two bands each struggling up the greasy pole of rock music success.  Based on what we know about the two bands from just the Summer of 2014 — sold out shows across Europe, Anton/Brian Jonestown Massacre playing no doubt great sets featuring songs from their magnificent new album, Revelation… the Dandys bringing big crowds to their feet by playing mostly songs from their back catalog… how would Dig! hold up?  What would viewing it ten years after its release be like?

Well, it’s not surprising that it is still so fine, so amazingly entertaining, still sad (watching the Anton Newcombe of those days, um, not succeed), still compelling.  It remains one of the handful of really excellent movies ever made about rock’n’roll.  The master narrative, for those who haven’t seen it, is that the Brian Jonestown Massacre and the Dandy Warhols were, in the 1990s, trying to revolutionize the world of rock music, and not incidentally, become huge.  Courtney Taylor and the Dandys both worshipped and were exasperated by the unrelenting, unfocused genius of Anton Newcombe, who no matter what else was going on — fistfights on stage, drug busts by Georgia sherifs, editions of the band imploding mid-tour — was capable of getting BJM to create album after album of important and meaningful music.  And while the Dandys got the big record contract, not all was groupies and cocaine in their world; they were subject to the machinations of a suppurating record industry, ultimately making fine records that were poorly promoted, even as they found a big audience, particularly in Europe, for their live shows.

Though it is narrated by Courtney Taylor, the movie is really the story of Anton Newcombe.  Dig! is a chronicle of a genius whose career flounders due to his peccadilloes, urges and addictions, his borderline behavior — even as we repeatedly come to understand how, of the two bands, it is the Brian Jonestown Massacre that is jacked into the live wire of real rock’n’roll.  Even when Peter Holmstrom of the Dandys is bitching about something that Anton has done to alienate them, the last sentence in each soundbite is some variation of, “And yet their music is just always that much more brilliant than anything anyone else can do.”  The movie ends with Antone not quite as a young and beautiful as he was in the early scenes, still flailing away at success, as the rival Dandys have settled into a niche of creative and commercial success.  Even though by 2004, BJM had released three score songs that will live forever, even though our record collection is fat with their multiple great albums, there was no sense of whether they would ever make it, and particularly whether Anton would survive from all the different ways he beat his head against the wall.

Flash forward to this summer and both bands have “made it.”  No, neither band sells millions of copies of their records.  But both bands — BJM and Dandys — are killing it each night on stage, with big crowds and happy tweeters.  Anton is broad of face, no longer handsome, but certainly healthy — his Twitter feed filled with shaky pictures of the sushi he’s eating, not lines of various powders — and he is back to putting out great records.  The Dandys may no longer be changing their world through their new records, but they are certainly worth seeing, one of the best live bands working today.  Both bands have adoring fans, and there is room for each to be the headline act in that alternative world in which alternative music — music that matters — still exists, record companies be damned.

It is a seemingly happy time for both bands.  But what really is most delightful is that Anton Newcombe, the troubled genius of Dig!, today is sober, productive, and still every bit the innovator he was in the 1990s.  Rock’n’roll does not have a wealth of happy stories.  This is one.

If “Dig!” Were Made Today, The Brian Jonestown Massacre Would Win

Posted in Music with tags , , , , on May 12, 2012 by johnbuckley100

Eight years after Dig! won Ondi Timoner awards and admiration for her depiction of diverging paths between The Brian Jonestown Massacre and The Dandy Warhols, you’d probably expect that the Dandys would be producing the superior music.  You’d be wrong.  As does not happen all that often, we have this Spring a clear bake off between the two bands, with BJM having released a fine return to form, Aufheben, and the Dandys releasing This Machine, another in a long line of disappointments stretching back to… well, about the time that Dig! came out and declared Courtney Taylor Taylor the “winner” over notorious BJM frontman fuck-up Anton Newcombe.

Look, no one at Tulip Frenzy is going to declare that the last few batches of BJM music were on a par with such earlier albums as Take It From The Man. Who Killed Sgt. Pepper and other works from the late ‘aughts sounded like Newcombe was recording on an old cassette deck inside an empty Icelandic bank vault after a wild night of MDA out on the glaciers.  But Aufheben stands up to the BJM’s best work from the ’90s.  “I Want To Hold Your Other Hand” sounds like an outtake from Tepid Peppermint, and the brilliant closer, “Blue Order New Monday” picks up where “Super-Sonic” left off.  A band sounding like it once did does not necessarily signal greatness, but in the case of the Brian Jonestown Massacre, we are taking about a return to sounding like Brian Jones gigging with the Pipes of Joujouka at a renaissance fair, that special mix of psychedelic folk that comes from mixing mushrooms with Mandrax at Andy Warhol’s Factory.  And that’s a good thing.  Welcome back, guys!  The move to Kreuzberg or Mitte has been good for Anton, the choice of Berlin as a place to live showing up in Aufheben‘s first song, “Panic In Babylon,” which could be the background music in the hippest donor kebab restaurant in the city.

The Dandys, on the other hand?  Ooof.  Some time back the lovely Zia McCabe took to the comments section of Tulip Frenzy to plead for a reconsideration of our verdict that the Dandys had grown to kinda suck.  We were sympathetic to her argument, because we loved the band. And we anxiously awaited the evidence that they still mattered. But while Aufheben sounds like it was carefully handcrafted by a band of psych-folk artisans living in a post-apocalyptic flat near Alexanderplatz, This Machine seems phoned in, lazy, flat, uninspired.  Even on the album’s two or three good songs, the Dandys sound, at best, generic.  We never thought they’d be generic because FM radio is so passé.  This makes us sad.

Which brings us back to Dig!, and how Courtney got to do the victor’s dictation of history — he literally got to do the voice-over on how, sadly, he’d loved Anton and thought he was a genius, but the evidence was all too clear that he was a junkie who would never get his act together.  And here we are, in 2012, and one band is vital and one band not.  The addled tortoise on the autobahn has just smoothly passed the Portland hare.  Life is funny sometimes.  Go buy Aufheben at once.

Two Data Points On The Brian Jonestown Massacre

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on November 21, 2010 by johnbuckley100

I don’t know about you, but when the BJM’s “Straight Up And Down” plays as the theme song for Boardwalk Empire, my pulse quickens.  It seems simultaneously to reaffirm Martin Scorsese’s hipster credentials and the Brian Jonestown Massacre’s greatness.  Not that either were ever in doubt.

But then last night, I watched Dig! for the first time in a while, and it was a reminder of just how tenuous Anton Newcomb’s hold on — what? everything: his music, his life, his sanity, his work — was for so many years there.  As he spirals down, as the band flounders, you could forget, for maybe a moment, just how extraordinary is the BJM’s contribution to the rock’n’roll canon.

(The most telling two lines in the movie come when a) Courtney Taylor-Taylor, having been brutal to Anton for much of the movie, states that just when he thinks he/the Dandy’s have caught up, he hears something new by the BJM and it takes his breath away, b) Anton, in one of his typical ego riffs states, quite accurately as it were, that when they started out, Pearl Jam was the biggest band in music, but how many PJ imitators are there now, versus how many BJM imitators?  Brilliant insight.)

The whole film is a reminder of what was, and we can compare it to the live output of the past two, three years.  We don’t much care for the Icelandic recording sessions that have found their way to the public, but having seen BJM three times since the Summer of 2008, it’s clear that Anton has found some measure of stability, and surely the band today is a glorious machine, as Anton hangs on and just plays one great song after another.

And so we gear up to watch another episode of Boardwalk Empire, knowing that “Straight Up And Down” is as oddly well matched to be the intro theme as “Gimme Shelter” was to be the soundtrack to Casino’s denouement.  Knowing just how great it is, and how close things came to Anton’s never having survived to hear his music reach this level of popular culture acceptance and veneration, is one of today’s many reasons for gratitude.

Are The Koolaid Electric Company The Great Lost Shoegaze Band?

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , on February 11, 2010 by johnbuckley100

The Koolaid Electric Company were first spotted by our detective when they were mysteriously served up by Last.FM as part of the black ryder radio stream.  Hmmm, who were these guys?  The sound was something Kramer would have coaxed out of Galaxy 500 on a frozen night in Soho: all Sterling Morrison lead atop crudish rhythm guitar with not much more than tambourine as an afterthought.  Cool!

We started pulling on threads… their MySpace page didn’t give up much… and all we could find on iTunes was a single song in a Dead Bees sampler podcast.  Google, the detective’s friend, linked us to — of course! — a KeepMusicEvil.com forum.  Naturally, they’d fall in the orbit around the Brian Jonestown Massacre.  From there we were directed by a one-eyed, mohawk-tonsured, uh, short person in a tuxedo to the ApolloAudio site, where, yay, an EP was downloadable (though not without some hiccups.)

The KeepMusicEvil experts tantalizingly included a post from someone who, in April 2008, claimed that the Koolaid Electric Company’s first album was BEING MIXED IN THE ROOM NEXT TO HIM.  And then, silence, the trail cold.

Ah, but the music is very warm: full-fledged Velvets goo mixed in a blender with the BJM, and Spaceman 3, with a sprinkling of Dandys and soupcon of The Darkside.  To be continued….

Dandy Warhols Return to Earth, Sort Of

Posted in Music with tags on August 21, 2008 by johnbuckley100

It’s nice to have the Dandy Warhols put out an album you can listen to the whole way through, and “Earth To The Dandy Warhols” is something of a return to form, but what form would that be?  What was always so charming about the early albums was Courtney Taylor-Taylor-Taylor’s arch voice, the unique guitar sound, the hip, well, earthiness of their melodic songs of urban bohemia.  The new album, amusing again, in some cases pretty, still seems like a band caught in an orbit it can’t return from for fear of burning up in the Earth’s atmosphere.   I will listen to this album, I’ll even enjoy it, but when I think of the Dandy Warhols — that band who brightened the ’90s and seemed so fresh upon arrival — I’ll push the button on “Dandys Rule, Ok?”  File under disappointment.

The Brian Jonestown Massacre Slayed All At Terminal 5, July 25

Posted in Music with tags , , , , on July 26, 2008 by johnbuckley100

Months ago, when tickets went on sale for the Brian Jonestown Massacre’s only U.S. show this summer (at New York’s Terminal 5), I said to someone I was trying to persuade to go, “This could be a complete disaster, or it could be transcendent.”  Those are the poles they swing between: the train wreck or the sublime.  And of course, with the news from London last week that Anton Newcombe had been arrested for allegedly knifing guitarist Frankie “Teardrop” Emerson, the odds seemed to tilt toward disaster.  Five minutes into the opening song, “Whoever You Are,” we had the answer to what was in store for us: The Brian Jonestown Massacre were transcendent.

“Whoever You Are” has a slow loping, “Tomorrow Never Knows” mid-’60s feel, and the tone for the evening was set: bright and shimmering guitars in layers — sometimes three guitars, sometimes four — an emollient, occasionally droning organ, and Daniel Allaire kicking the living bejesus out of the drums.  Anton Newcombe, fragile, his back to the audience most of the time, stayed on the edge of the action that he thoroughly controlled.

Like so many others, I got a sense of the BJM’s stage mayhem only from watching “Dig!”  — Program note: “Dig!” is available below via a widget from SnagFilms.com; you should watch it, snag it, and put it on your own site.   Now it was clear what role Joel Gion plays: we already knew he doesn’t sing, he *just* bangs the tambourine, but he holds the center stage that Anton, for a complex brew of reasons, can’t or won’t.  Anton seemed frail, and even as his guitar gathered strength, his singing was tentative.  You had the feeling you were watching a version of Syd Barrett with both a bark and a bite: a savant who simultaneously exuded reticence and a very sharp edge.  But Anton could afford to stand just outside the glare of the stage lights, for inside them, the band was magnificent.  It all revolved around his songs, his guitar, his singing.  BJM circa 2008 isn’t quite Anton’s backup band, but you get the sense they know the reason they can lay claim to greatness is because of him.

When they played “Who,” the band all wailed their “Whos!!!” like they were auditioning for Jean-Luc Godard’s “Sympathy for The Devil.”  It was 1966 and Brian Jones was out of it, but the San Francisco scene hadn’t taken its inevitable turn toward Jonestown, toward Altamont and the long morning after. Donovan was still wearing shaggy vests and putting flowers in his hair.  And bands played these long sets with guitar lines searching for space like jungle lianas fighting for light.

I think it’s true that “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” and the first Velvet Underground album were released the same week, and if so, last night represented some kind of mash-up between those two Albums of the Week.  There’s no actual connection between the music of “Sgt. Pepper’s” and what these guys do — their “psychedelia” is closer, perhaps, to a jam including John Phillips and Skip Spence and Keith Richards in some farmhouse in the Cotswolds. But their music is a capsule dug up from such times.   And while last night the band bore little resemblance to Lou’s ensemble — there’s an optimism and a brightness to the guitars, a lack of cynicism to the whole effect — if there was a musical God standing offstage, it was, no doubt, Sterling Morrison.

We could have stood not having Anton and Frankie Teardrop leave the stage for a long smoke while a subset of musicians noodled, wasting time.  We could have lived without having some guy who strutted like Roger Daltrey and sang like Keith Moon come on as a guest for a song.  By the time they closed with “If Love Is The Drug, Then I Want To O.D.” it was clear just why it was Music’s loss that the careerist Dandy Warhols, not the screwed up genius of Anton Newcombe and his band, were the “winners” in “Dig!” The Dandy’s are bohemian like you.  The Brian Jonestown Massacre break on through to the other side, at great cost to themselves, no doubt, to their career aspirations certainly, but to the delight of anyone lucky enough to get to see them.

It’s The Morning After, Where Are The Morning After Girls?

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , on April 23, 2008 by johnbuckley100

So last night the Broad Street Bullies downed our Caps in game 7 of the Stanley Cup preliminaries.  And let’s not talk about the Pennsylvania primary.  It’s the morning after, but where, oh where are The Morning After Girls?

Their website’s last entry is from June of last year.  There’s a reference to a new album, but where is it? Where are they?

Based on the only music released stateside, the spectacular “Prelude EPs 1&2,” here’s what we know.  They’re not girls, they’re (mostly) boys, they live in Sidney, and sonic data reveals that for them, it’s always New Years Morning 1990 — or maybe 1996.  We hear references to the Pixies, the Stone Roses, the Charlatans U.K., the Brian Jonestown Massacre, and the Dandys.  Pretty good company to keep. 

It’s time they resurfaced.  Please don’t post a note telling me they’ve broken up.  Or plunged off that bridge into Sydney Harbor.  Or were eaten by wallabies.  I couldn’t take it.  Not on this morning after.

UPDATE:  See comment below.  The Morning After Girls are sufficiently alive and well to be finishing up a new album.  Tulip Frenzy asks, and get answers… Yippee. 

 

Down The Rabbit Hole With The Brian Jonestown Massacre

Posted in Music with tags , , , on April 9, 2008 by johnbuckley100

I like to think about rock’n’roll in terms of families, clans, circles.  Six degrees of sonic separation.  If Tulip Frenzy were a Harvard B School class, someone would blurt out “Ecosystems.”  Yeah, well, connected systems.  There is that.

You know that old story that only 100 people bought the first Velvet Underground album, but they all formed bands?  I like those bands.  For years, it was nearly enough for someone to put the words “Velvet Underground” in a review of a band, and I’d go buy the record.  Why?  Because if they were trying to sound like the Velvet Underground, that was a good start.  From Galaxie 500 to Luna, Dream Syndicate to the Darkside, you really can’t go wrong looking for music made by bands who worship at the altar of his Lou-ness.

There are some obvious clans, systems, circles.  Think of all the bands that want to sound like the Stones, or the Faces.  For all I know, Whitesnake might have an ecosystem richer than the Amazon. Then there are more formal systems like the Elephant 6 Collective.  Bands that sound like or have been produced by Brian Eno.  You know the game.

For me, some of the bands that sound like the Dandy Warhols are more entertaining the Dandys have been since 13 Tales.  You know who I’m talking about: the Morning After Girls, the Out Crowd.  Bands that have that cool Dandys guitar sound, but maybe aren’t so cynical, so self-consciously ironic.

Now, I had long since listened to the Brian Jonestown Massacre, and yes, my angle in was from “Dig,” that documentary that came out a few years ago showcasing the Dandy Warhols as careerists and The Brian Jonestown Massacre as junkie geniuses that could never quite get it together.  Oh man oh man oh man, to have been alive in the 1990s when the BJM were around.  Wait!  I was alive in the ’90s!  How did I miss them?

Are they the great unknown American band?  The band that most jacked into the raw power of the VU? Putting out double albums, three albums in one year, playing 9-hour sets for 10 people.  This is the stuff of myth, and having spent the last month — note the absence of posts here — playing them over and over and over again, yeah, the reality is pretty amazing.

If you’re not an aficionado already, start with Take It From The Man.  Play it for like a week.  Then move on to Their Satanic Majesty’s Second Request.  After that, go straight to And This Is Our Music.

Oh yeah, you’ll want more.

Did I mention that they’re still alive and kicking and are going to play festivals in Europe this summer and then play a gig at Terminal 5 in New York this summer?  July 25th.  See you there.  

 

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