Archive for The Brian Jonestown Massacre

New Albums By Courtney Barnett, Parquet Courts, Wand, And The Brian Jonestown Massacre Get Summer Off To A Strong Start

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , , on June 10, 2018 by johnbuckley100

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Courtney Barnett  Tell Me How You Really Feel

Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit, which came out in 2015, is credited with being Courtney Barnett’s first album, and it certainly put her on the map.  But it was the 12 songs on The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas that stole our heart. Released in the States a year before her left-field hit, the double EP was less caffeinated, less torqued in its production, and the deceptive ambiance — it seemed like the work of a slacker, but she’s no slacker, as events have proved — was gorgeous and charming.  Sometimes I Sit thunders, while A Sea of Split Peas could have been recorded with Joe Jackson’s band from Look Sharp, vintage alterna-punk with classic pop songwriting.

Which is why Tell Me How You Really Feel is such a delight.  It takes things back down a notch. After it seemed like Barnett might have been a bit lost on her own — touring with Kurt Vile in support of their duet last fall, then arriving in the states early this year supporting partner Jen Cloher — Barnett’s new album is sure-footed, charming and in so many ways the proper successor to A Sea of Split Peas.

“Nameless, Faceless” revs up like Elastica, and “Crippling Doubt And A General Lack of Confidence” hit precisely that sweet spot of self-deprecating humor and Stiff Records swing that makes Barnett’s brand of punk so beguiling.  That Courtney Barnett seems to have found herself without having to turn the amps up to 11 is all you need to know about one of the season’s true highlights.

191402000108 Parquet Courts  Wide Awake

The distance covered by Parquet Courts between 2013’s Light Up Gold and Wide Awake, by our count, their sixth full album, is not unlike the journey Joe Strummer & Co. took between The Clash and Sandinista.  Wide Awake is clearly an album by the same group of Texas transplants whose debut reeked of spilled beer in late night Brooklyn clubs, but it incorporates their advanced degrees in musicology that they’ve picked up along the way.

We first saw Parquet Courts play on their 2013 tour with Woods, a Brooklyn band just a little older than them, but kindred spirits.  After Andrew Savage’s solo album last year revealed him having spent many hours listening to that first Little Feet album, it isn’t a wonder that a band who previously could claim kinship to Television would now populate their extremely literate storytelling with a dive into idioms, from reggae to funk, just bit more sophisticated than the high-speed rockers they entered playing.  Woods is a reference point, for they’ve done something similar.  But Parquet Courts do it here in a way that seems a summation, a culmination, their best, most comprehensive album.  Wide Awake is at once the album that makes you love where Parquet Courts have been and excited about where they’re going.

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Wand   Perfume

Longtime readers of Tulip Frenzy will remember that we gave Wand’s Plum Album O’ Ye Year in 2017, and on Perfume — which might have been called Mini Album Thingy Wingy if BJM hadn’t gotten their first — they continue their development toward becoming the greatest band on the planet.  Sure, Cory Hanson may be a junior partner to Ty Segall, Thee Oh Sees, and White Fence strictly in terms of his years on Earth.  But when measured against his West Coast peers in terms of recent output, who you calling junior, Junior?

“The Gift” sounds like an outtake from Plum, if only because we know that album was recorded in homage to Marquee Moon, and here Hanson’s guitar work is at least the equal of Tom Verlaine’s (or Nels Cline’s, for that matter.)  It’s simply a stunning song.  “Pure Romance” continues in the same vein.  They’ve come a long way from the tuneful prog of  Ganglion Reef, their debut from 2014.  We hope that the album’s closer, “I Will Keep You Up,” is a preview of coming attractions, for letting Sofia Arreguin carry half the vocal duties makes what is already a beautiful song utterly sublime.

We don’t think of this as the full album follow up to Plum. More like a teaser of future greatness.  There is no doubt in our mind that Wand will someday put out a masterpiece, and given the way they work, that someday could be, like, October.

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The Brian Jonestown Massacre  Something Else

When Something Else was released in May, we updated the Brian Jonestown Massacre playlist we began in 2012 when they released Aufheben. We titled that six-year old playlist “Late Phase BJM,” and have populated it with just the very best songs Anton Newcombe and his remarkably stable set of musicians have since put out on their various albums, short albums, EPs, singles, etc.  There are now 40 songs on the playlist, including six from Something Else, seven if you include the excellent “Drained,” the B-side of the single “Animal Wisdom,” which kicks of the record.

Are there any other bands who, since 2012, have produced that much good music?  If you think of the long and gloriously twisted history of the BJM, I’m not sure how many of the albums from the 1990s had as *many* good songs as Aufheben, Revelation, Third World Pyramid, and now Something Else — and this doesn’t even count releases like E.P.+1 and great songs like “Revolution Number Zero” and “Fingertips” put out as singles or on EPs.

Some time ago, we compared Anton to Dylan — an artist known for, principally, his earliest work, when the late work is, to our ears, of such high value, we’re convinced we’d be happy listening only to the recent stuff.

With the exception of “Who Dreams of Cats,” it’s possible no song from Something Else would be put on a 10-song assemblage of Anton’s greatest hits. And yet, six really good songs on an album, seven if you include the B side, shows what high quality his output is. And why we are so lucky to have it.

An Evening With The Brian Jonestown Massacre At D.C.’s 9:30 Club

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on May 6, 2016 by johnbuckley100
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On their 2016 tour of these United States, The Brian Jonestown Massacre are doing something they mostly avoided the last time we saw them — they are playing songs from Anton Newcombe’s fairly astonishing recent creative output, and going deep into the back catalogue.  It is as if Methadrone and Mini Album Thingy Wingy were recorded by the same band in the same year, not by largely different bands more than 20 years apart.

We’d largely forgotten “Never Ever,” which kicked off the set, but if ever you wanted to steep yourself like a mushroom tea bag in the Velvets’ Factory sound, yeah, good place to begin.  And what a thrill it was to hear them play “Goodbye (Butterfly)” or “Pish,” which rank among our favorite recent BJM songs, capturing all the magic of this greatest working band which, not that long ago, may have seemed like their best work was behind them.

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For the initiated, this was a marvelous show, occasionally crystalizing with shimmering layers of guitar, the emollience of the organ, Daniel Allaire kicking the drum kit no matter what else was going on.  And there was a lot going on.  Anton was as cranky as we’ve ever seen him, twice chiding Ryan Van Kriedt for playing acoustic guitar (on “Anemone” and “Prozac vs. Heroin”), even though in the latter case, Van Kriedt politely informed the mercurial bandleader that he’d actually told him to play it.  (“I don’t care, there’s a hole in the middle of the song when you play it.”)  Hey, at least he didn’t stab him, like he allegedly did Frankie Teardrop during the 2009 tour.

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Hearing the band line up with Anton, Ryan, and Ricky Maymi each playing 12-string guitars was a treat, a sonic treat.  Over the course of their long existence, BJM have grafted their own take on the Velvet Underground’s guitar sound atop Cure-era Power Pop, while somehow harkening to a Summer of Love psychedelic dynamic.  When you hear Anton sing and play guitar on a fairly new song, “Days, Weeks and Moths” from 2014’s Revelation, it brings to mind Blind Faith, or maybe Traffic, but nevertheless a band right on the back end of the ’60s.  And yet it is completely contemporary, if you’re an oddball like me who thinks psychedelic rock’n’roll is contemporary.

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There were moments when even Joel Gion grew a little frustrated with Anton’s temper.  But let’s cut the genius some slack.  Since quitting drugs and alcohol, since moving to Berlin and becoming a father, Anton has produced some of the greatest music of his career, which no one, circa 2005, would have predicted.  There were moments during last night’s near three-hour set that were magical, less like seeing a band perform than being inside the rehearsal studio when lightning was captured in a bottle.  Anton promised not one, but two new albums this year.  We can’t wait to hear ’em.

 

 

The Magic Castles “Starflower” Revels In Anton Newcombe’s Influence

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on October 29, 2015 by johnbuckley100

In Japan, they call interconnected companies with deep, informal ties keiretsus. In Korea, they refer to business entities with interlocking relationships as chaebols. In rock’n’roll, we have Anton Newcombe who, in his multiple roles as leader of the Brian Jonestown Massacre, solo artist, producer, and head of the label A Records has connected a web of bands that collectively capture an outsized slice of real estate in our digital music collection, or in psychic-business terms, a large share of mind.

From Birdstriking to KVB, Tess Parks to Flavor Crystals, more often than not, the music that has preoccupied us in recent months somehow all connects back to Anton. Last week we wrote about the Flavor Crystals, whom we first heard open for the Brian Jonestown Massacre years ago. It got us to thinking, and sent us back to listen to the recently released fourth album by Magic Castles, the Minneapolis band we first heard opening for BJM in 2012, and about whom we wondered aloud, are the Magic Castles the best young band in America?

On Starflower, Magic Castles infuse the chiming, psychedelic pop that was so hypnotic on last year’s Sky Sounds in such a strong garage ambiance, you can practically taste the engine oil. Interestingly, for a band releasing their fourth album, it’s really only on this one that, time and again, you can hear the explicit influence of Newcombe; the songs don’t just sound like something BJM would have produced, they sound specifically like recent albums Newcombe’s recorded over the compressed, amazingly prolific last 18 months.

Starflower is not the first music we’ve heard that also invokes Eno’s first album, as Magic Castles do on “Samara,” but it is definitely the first album connecting Newcombe to an earlier multifaceted musician-producer-impresario around whom such great music revolved. Starflower may not take Tulip Frenzy’s Album of The Year, but we can’t stop listening to it. In fact, between the Anton Newcombe and Tess Parks album I Declare Nothing, The Shiver of the Flavor Crystals, and what we’ve heard so far from the impending Brian Jonestown Massacre Mini Album Thingy Wingy, we could, like a business in Japan or Korea, exist entirely within a single keiretsu, one integrated chaebol.

The New Flavor Crystals Album Sends A Shiver Up The Spine

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on October 23, 2015 by johnbuckley100

You really have to listen to the Flavor Crystals’ new album, though not if you have anyplace you need to go.  The Shiver Of The Flavor Crystals is the fourth LP from the Twin Cities psych band, and once you put it on, you may as well sit down and settle in. You won’t want to leave.

Hailing from precincts that have given us First Communion Afterparty and The Magic Castles, the Flavor Crystals quickly dissolved into a minimalist solution, with droning guitar lines over a steady beat, the vocals sometimes an afterthought.  Even fans — and we very much consider ourselves in that category — will be forgiven for admitting the Flavor Crystals are a little more thrilling on stage than perhaps heretofore on their albums, which occasionally have put the Ambien in ambient.

The Shiver Of The Flavor Crystals is stronger than even the best songs on 2008’s Ambergris, which is saying something, and reminded us of why, the moment we saw them open for The Brian Jonestown Massacre and then downloaded “Checker Board” from their debut, On Plastic, we saw Flavor Crystals as a necessary additive to our life.  It is much stronger than their heralded Third, which we found a little lacking in propulsion.  These songs dial up the melody and urgency, though the band certainly never breaks a sweat.

There aren’t easy comparisons to other bands, more like affinities.  The songs are based on the interplay between guitarists that  places them on the same taxonomic scale as Luna, Television, Real Estate.  Twin City friends and fellow BJM allies Magic Castles come to mind.  But then so do much louder bands like My Bloody Valentine, and even more intricate composers like Jonny Greenwood.  Honestly, I could see putting a song like “Diamond Mine” not on a psych playlist, where I’ve routinely dropped their best ‘uns over the past few years.  I could see playing it back to back with Miles Davis’s “In A Silent Way,” maybe with something by Cluster and Eno.

This is gorgeous music, thrilling and relaxing at the same time.  Play it loud.  Just don’t plan on going anywhere.

Tess Parks and Anton Newcombe’s May-September Collaboration

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on July 2, 2015 by johnbuckley100

Given how strong the last two major Brian Jonestown Massacre albums have been, and how successful was their 2014 summer tour of Europe, we weren’t at all surprised that Anton Newcombe would feature on our favorite album so far this summer.  That it’s not a BJM album, but a collaboration with a young singer and songwriter from Toronto named Tess Parks that has given the hard drive on our music machine a workout is something of a revelation.

Perhaps it shouldn’t have been, for Parks’ first album, Blood Hot, which came out in 2013, was superb, and seemed well steeped in BJM dynamics: dreamy guitar lines, songs constructed around repetition of verses, choruses, but few bridges.  (If you’d told me “Gates Of Broadway” was a Massacre recording, and as he did so successfully with Sarabeth Tucek, or Miranda Lee Richards, Newcombe simply was featuring a woman singing his songs, I’d have believed it.) Apparently, following the BJM 2014 tour, Anton invited Tess over to his place, and from the moment they met, a May-September collaboration was joined.  Since last fall, using YouTube as the distribution medium, we’ve been getting glimpses of their work together, and now that we have the whole album, it all makes perfect sense.  I Declare Nothing may be viewed as either a worthy one-off side project for both, or — and this is our hope — something to be repeated as often as Otis Redding and Carla Thomas making hits together.

This is the first album recorded in Newcombe’s Berlin studio, and it is sonically supple.  “Cocaine Cat,” the first official release, showcases a sound as rich as any BJM record, which is a high compliment.  Not every song is as strong as the opener, “Wehmet,” or as thrilling as “Melorist,” but this is a collection of songs so powerful that it renders laughable the complaints of critics in NME and Uncut who mewl piteously that “it just sounds like a BJM record.”  Um, yeah, that’s the highest compliment.

Parks sings all the songs, and we hear Anton’s voice on just a couple — his presence is felt on everything else.  Tess Parks’ voice generates comparisons to Hope Sandoval, and sometimes that’s justified.  Her singing is a little less enticing when she digs low for a gravelly bottom — when she’s trying to affect scratchiness, she sounds more like the teenage Alex Chilton growling his way through “Give Me A Ticket For An Airplane.”  But on “Mama,””Voyage De L’ame,” or a gorgeous, affecting song like “Friendlies,” which closes the album, the combination of Parks’ emotionally gripping voice, Anton Newcombe’s guitar strumming and the pace makes these as powerful as anything ever put down on a Mazzy Star record, never mind the Brian Jonestown Massacre.  Seriously.

This is a beautiful, magical collaboration, reinforcing our sense that Anton Newcombe’s genius hasn’t yet revealed his greatest work, and that Tess Parks will be beguiling us for years to come.

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.

The Brian Jonestown Massacre’s “Revelation” Is Perfectly Named

Posted in Music with tags , , , on May 19, 2014 by johnbuckley100

Beginning in 2010, when Who Killed Sgt. Pepper was the follow-up to My Bloody Underground, we began to think of the Brian Jonestown Massacre as a superb live band with one of the great back catalogues in rock, but not really a band whose who new album would engender much excitement.

But then came 2012’s Aufheben, which had a number of songs as good as anything Anton Newcombe had ever written, with “I Want To Hold Your Other Hand” and “Blue Order New Monday” taking up permanent residence inside our earbuds.  We began to get excited about what tricks Anton still had up his sleeve.

Revelation, which officially comes out tomorrow but happily was available to download last night, is so good, we wonder if it might be the Love and Theft to Aufheben‘s Time Out Of Mind, a portent not just of a return to greatness after a less-than-great creative patch, but an indicator that Newcombe’s best work, like Dylan’s, might someday be understood to have been made when his youth was behind him — to be not what he produced when he was a young and brash punk, but what came after a hard-earned perspective.  I mean, there were days when few people might have expected Anton would be around to make an album in 2014 — but to discover that he’s produced one of the best albums of his career?  Yeah, it’s got the right name: Revelation.

The album begins wonderfully, with the Swedish rocker “Vad Hande Med Dem” giving way to the Kurt Vile-ish “What You Isn’t.”  By the time we get to “Memory Camp,” it doesn’t matter which members of the large tribe that have variously performed as BJM are playing behind Anton, it doesn’t matter that we’re in Berlin, not California, no other band or set of musicians — not even ones like the Morning After Girls who worshipped the sticky ground on which Anton walked — could produce a Brian Jonestown Massacre album half as good as this. By the time we got to “Food For Clouds,” we were grinning ear to ear.  At “Memorymix,” we were ready to take the day off and just hole up, having committed to memory the phone number to the Dominos delivery folks.  By “Xibalba” we were dancing around the house.

Over the past few weeks, as Dan and Joel and Matt, as Ricky and Frankie descended upon Austin like the Hole In The Wall Gang getting together with Butch and Sundance to go rob a bank, excitement mounted.  They came together to play at the Austin Psych Fest, and then do a few West Coast shows before heading off to Europe, and reports came fast and furious that the band was in fine form.  Interviews with Anton found him completely on his game, honest about the past, a sober father with a great sense of humor.  Revelation reveals marriage, fatherhood, and sobriety have not diminished his creativity one wit.  And of course, as is so often the case, as a sober artist, these days he’s more capable of hitting his mark.

We expect to be playing Revelation until the hard drive on our device gives out.  Most important — and we are struggling to convey this to the band of weirdos to whom this really matters — based on the evidence available here, it’s time to raise our expectations and settle in for a late run.  The albums the Brian Jonestown Massacre are producing in the mid-’10s are as good as what they produced in the ’90s.  We may be ahead of ourself thinking that Anton’s on a run like the one that Dylan went on between ’97 and, oh, 2010.  But our hopes are high again.

 

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