Archive for Brian Jonestown Massacre

Are The Magic Castles The Best Young Band In America?

Posted in Music with tags , , , , on August 23, 2012 by johnbuckley100

We saw the Magic Castles open for the Brian Jonestown Massacre at the 930 Club last night.  Too often, you have to endure opening acts to get to the main event, and few things are worse than having to sit through the thudding gyrations of bands you find just fundamentally lacking.  This is not so much the case when the BJM are in town; Anton Newcombe is many things, and one of them is a good mentor, as evidenced by how many of the bands we love have cited, on their websites, that they toured with the Brian Jonestown Massacre.  It’s like a punk rock Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval, playing with BJM, and it’s worth showing up an hour earlier than otherwise you might. We’ve liked The Young Sinclairs, and that Icelandic band, Singapore Sling, they had open for them in 2009, and didn’t we see the Flavor Crystals open for them once? But The Magic Castles were… magic.

Imagine John Densmore drumming while Dean Wareham and Sterling Morrison back up Neil Young.  We’d read the reference to them in last week’s issue of The New Yorker, capsule-previewing their opening for the BJM with that shorthand citation: a comparison to the Velvet Underground.  As some know, Tulip Frenzy has an office policy, rigidly enforced from the senior staff on down to the interns, to be curious about any band that is referenced in the same sentence as the VU, either as in, “They sound like the Velvet Underground,” or, “They sound nothing like the Velvet Underground.”  We don’t much care which way it goes; any such reference is worthy of our checking it out.  Only, when we saw them play last night, we didn’t think of the VU so much as First Communion Afterparty, the Doors, Luna, Kurt Vile, Fripp and Eno, or maybe it’s Cluster and Eno — all of them great character references.

So we didn’t know they were from Minneapolis, which makes some sense given the FCAP vibe.  They’re not really like the late and lamented psyche-tyros — granted, the Magic Castles’ music, especially as recorded, has these psilocybin traces of the color spectrum limning its edges, though not the lysergic propulsion of that other sadly mothballed Minneapolis band.  On vinyl, on the eponymous record they put out on Anton’s A Records, they’re more like an entrant into the Elephant 6 landscape: ’60’s vocals that emerge like beekeeping monks who have all just swallowed  something interesting spontaneously breaking out into song, while the guitar notes wind around their black-clad habits like a quietly buzzing but sonically active hive.  Live, though, they were tougher, more Summer of Luvish, a band we could imagine coming not from the Twin Cities but from our Notional Brooklyn, where the artisanal hippies have all gone to roost, tinkering in their workshops, a serious Portlandia where everything is made of fresh-baked fixins that have tasty undertones.  Yeah, the Magic Castles make you think this way.  Let’s hear more.

Tulip Frenzy Reader Zia McCabe Is A Class Act

Posted in Music with tags , , , on June 9, 2012 by johnbuckley100

So just about a month ago, we delivered the mixed verdict that the Brian Jonestown Massacre’s new album was far better than the new album by the Dandy Warhols.  And in that post, we referenced  how the Dandy’s Zia McCabe had once asked Tulip Frenzy for a reconsideration of whether her band had declined since those amazing early albums.  We regretted having to say that we don’t like the new Dandy Warhols album, because we are still a big fan.  This morning, we found a comment on that post from the lovely Zia McCabe, and it proves to us that even if the Dandys have lost some of that magic that once made them irresistible, Zia has lost none of her graciousness and class.  Anton Newcombe: Please note at least one member of the Dandy Warhols wishes you well. Here’s the comment, called out for wider readership.

June 9, 2012 at 7:54 am e

Ha, well at least you still consider me lovely. Maybe our next album will suit your fancy. Or maybe you’d like my side project Brush Prairie. Glad to here you enjoy the new BJM album at least. That makes me happy for those guys. X

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.

Spiritualized At The 930 Club, May 10, 2012

Posted in Music with tags , , on May 11, 2012 by johnbuckley100

The band’s leader, for years bedeviled by drug and health issues, stands off to the side, with evident disdain either for playing frontman or for the crowd.  Brian Jonestown Massacre circa 2009?  No, Spiritualized last night.

It was a badly paced set — we could have done without the long transition between “Rated X” and “Electric Mainline” — but when they were on, ladies and gentlemen, we were rocket-launched through space.  With the exception of “Hey Jane,” which opened, and was filled with air and space so that its tight motorik tempo allowed the engine to breath, the great songs from Sweet Heart Sweet Light reminded us that the five-piece band, plus singers, could have used the further emollient of horns.  But the arrangements were fantastic — we were completely fooled by the intro to “Heading For The Top,” thinking Pierce had gone all the way back to Lazer Guided Melodies to play “If I Were With Her Now.”

Jason Pierce seemed strong, for someone who’s medical records have played out on the pages of music magazines for years.  He’s a big guy, with a head the size of Helmut Kohl’s, and one wished his generous volubility with interviewers would have accommodated more than a single “thank you” as they left the stage.  But when we heard “She Kissed Me (It Felt Like A Hit)” followed by “Come Together,” all was forgiven.

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.

Brian Jonestown Massacre At the 9:30 Club Was The Eye, Not The Hurricane

Posted in Music with tags , , on June 10, 2010 by johnbuckley100

Lord knows The Brian Jonestown Massacre have had their share of tumultuous shows, but last night at Washington’s 9:30 Club, they were an island of calm amidst a sea of chaos.

Consider: coming home from a dinner out before heading to the show, a deranged driver of a pickup truck shot across four lanes of avenue traffic and headed directly for our car proceeding up one of Upper Northwest D.C.’s narrowest streets.  We pulled over as the truck shot by going upwards of 50, and it just barely missed us moments before it drove over a curb and through a hedge, its brake lights never glimpsed.  Or this: an hour before we arrived at 9:30, three young men were shot right in front of the club, which was then surrounded by police and crime-scene tape.  Think of it: the Brian Jonestown Massacre played a locale surrounded by police and crime-scene tape, and it had absolutely nothing to do with them.

They played a calm, ultimately moving, pretty glorious set, turning the set lists from the 2008 and 2009 tours inside out.  Instead of opening with “Whoever You Are,” the band followed Anton into “Super-Sonic.”  “Wasted” was the third song of the night, and with its chugging refrain of “I want to know,” the band kicked hard, but were as impassive as jurors settling in for a long trial.  Sure, Joel Gion got worked up when Matt Hollywood sang “Got My Eye On You,” and the drumming, as always, was an artful pneumatic drill, but when you think about the way the BJM live meld three and four strumming guitars against Anton’s methodical leads, it’s a speedball combo of the constant and the virtuoso.  Thick layers of six- and twelve-string guitars, powerhouse drumming, an emollient organ, and Anton plinking his notes, one at a time, putting in Sterling Morrison fills, and singing, shyly.

Calm as they were, as professional as they are, the impression should not be conveyed that they failed to produce a big ruckus. “Not If You Were The Last Dandy On Earth” had the whole, nearly sold out crowd singing, and it was just a practice run for a raucous “Who?”  I’d never heard them play “Going To Hell,” and it was an up-tempo delight.  Something was slightly off in the mix, or the tuning, for “That Girl Suicide,” but this is a mild kvetch.  With the exception of “Hide and Seek, ” “Straight Up And Down,” and “Nailing Honey To The Bee,” they played all the songs you’d want them to (and they may even have played those, but after almost a two-hour set, we braved the D.C. streets.) “Servo,” and  “Vacuum Boots” and “Anemone” were all quite fine.

Anton seemed stronger than he has the last few tours: still hidden behind a burka of forelocks, saying virtually nothing, standing as he always does playing to the stage, not to the crowd.  But his voice was strong, and he’s still with us.  As are those three guys shot out on the street just before the show, and since we haven’t heard otherwise, the driver of that pickup truck terrorizing the leafy interior suburbs of the Nation’s Capital.  Whowouldathunk that The Brian Jonestown Massacre would be the steady counterpoint to the chaos of the streets, or even that in 2010, they’d still be around and kicking hard against beautiful songwriting strummed in perfect unison.

Brian Jonestown Massacre Live At Hi-Fi Bar Album

Posted in Music with tags , , on April 19, 2009 by johnbuckley100

It was recorded in Melbourne in late August 2008, following a long flight from the European festival circuit, punctuated only by that great set at Terminal 5 in New York, a convenient layover.  Anton apologizes for being jet-lagged, but he needn’t have.  It’s a great performance, virtually identical to the one Tulip Frenzy witnessed at T5.  As with the BJM live these days — maybe moreso on the current tour, what with Matt Hollywood adding another axe to the Branca-esque guitar army — the band’s mostly about the mid-tones, the upthrust from the drums and organ through the four or five layers of guitar.  Maybe it’s the choice of songs, but the album is a reminder of the band’s folk-rock core, the strumming middle.

H0w to obtain this rarity: have to go to the BJM website (eyes right, people!) and follow the links to the Hi-Fi store in Melbourne.  Took a few tries to make the kludgy website work, but about five days after I ordered it, the unsuspecting USPS dropped this little letter bomb right in my mailbox, which only exploded when I loaded the CD in my computer.  Absolutely worth it, not just for completists, but anyone who’s seen the band on this tour and wants to recapture the magic.  Note: it includes the as-yet unreleased “Prefab Ambulatory Device,” a future gem.

Song list:

Whoever You Are

Yeah Yeah

Nailing Honey To A Bee

Here It Comes

Vacuum Boots

Who

Hide and Seek

When Jokers Attack

Sailor

A New Low In Getting High

Evergreen

Prefab Ambulatory Device

%d bloggers like this: