Archive for The Brian Jonestown Massacre

Dean Wareham’s Warm Heart Pastry

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , , , on October 15, 2013 by johnbuckley100

Dean Wareham’s Emancipated Hearts was released today.  Not quite an E.P., not quite an album, it is — when the B-side to “Love Is Colder Than Death”  is added to the tally — six new Wareham compositions and a cover of The Incredible String Band’s “Air.”  It is a beautiful, modest collection of songs that make us yearn for more — more Wareham in any form he’s willing to give us: solo artist, in tandem with Britta Phillips, or as a leader of a band.

While “The Deadliest Day Since The Invasion Begins” hauntingly lingers in the mind, the title track, “Emancipated Hearts,” is the stunner here.  When you think about Wareham’s sensibility — writing often gorgeous melodies, post-folk sensitive songs as pretty as anything by Robyn Hitchcock — it’s a revelation to realize we’ve never really heard one of his songs with a piano on it, and only rarely with cello or viola.  Wareham has always surrounded his melodies with delectable guitar lines, so purely in the mode of Sterling Morrison’s work with the Velvet Underground that, in fact, the ur-Luna breakthrough, “Friendly Advice,” even featured Morrison.  Here, though, we have piano and viola as emollients and the resulting raga completes a circle, as “Emancipated Hearts” sounds like it could easily have been a collaboration with the fellow-traveling Velvets acolyte Anton Newcombe on some long lost  Brian Jonestown Massacre album, even as it weaves in the tune from “The Little Drummer Boy.”

On Dean and Britta’s 13 Most Beautiful, Wareham recycled Luna’s “The Enabler” as “Herringbone Tweed,” updating a melody for his post-Luna incarnation.  Here he builds “The Ticking Of The Bomb” on the chassis of Luna’s “Hello Little One,” and with the expanded instrumentation used here, it takes a pleasing melody into breathtaking sublimity.  More of this, sir, please?  In fact, the whole mini-album is a tease, like reading a short story in The New Yorker by your favorite author, and while savoring it, it produces that feeling that will only be satisfied by a whole new book.

We love that he chose to play “Air,” a song by the Incredible String Band, and wish only that he could have recorded ISB leader Mike Heron’s “Warm Heart Pastry.”  This is an aspect of Wareham’s talent that is under-exploited: reviving sounds of late ’60s British folk rock.  Again, let’s have some more of this, Dean, ok?

Last week we wondered if Wareham was hinting at a Luna reunion in his review of the new Mazzy Star album.  We don’t really care what form more music from Dean Wareham comes in: a solo album of requisite length, more work with Britta, reunion of Luna.  It has been about eight years since Luna broke up, and on 13 Most Beautiful and now on Emancipated Hearts we have a reminder of how Dean Wareham is a talent of the first rank, his heart emancipated, his songwriting reliant on more than just his magical guitar work to fulfill a song.  May we have another helping?

UPDATE: The original version of this post stated that this was the first collection ever released by “Dean Wareham.”  Our friends at A Headful of Wishes pushed back on this assertion.  So it turns out the “Anesthesia” E.P., released in 1992, really was a “Dean Wareham” release.  We stand corrected.  Because two of the three songs on it were on Luna’s initial release, Lunapark, and because we never saw the 12″ or 7″ vinyl releases, we always assumed this was Luna, and it was a mistake to credit it to Wareham.  Live and learn.

The Dandy Warhols Deliver All “Thirteen Tales From Urban Bohemia” At The 9:30 Club

Posted in Music with tags , , , on May 30, 2013 by johnbuckley100

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Seeing a band deliver on stage, in its entirety, a 13-year old album is like examining a flower pressed under glass.  The vitality present when it was a living, breathing thing is replaced by an archival weight, but in the case of The Dandy Warhols playing Thirteen Tales From Urban Bohemia, playing the album brought restorative powers, and all these years later, an informed perspective.  It was exquisite, and they were great.

Yesterday also brought news that an intact Wooly Mammoth, complete with blood samples, had been carved from the tundra in Siberia.  Coincidence? We don’t know.  All we know is that one of our favorite bands who, since 2005, have not brought us new music on par with what came before, played a set that allowed us to clone the enthusiasm we once had for them.  After a note-perfect, enthusiastic, glorious rendition of arguably their best album — and inarguably their high-water mark commercially — the Dandys came through with a restoration drama reaffirming their uniqueness.

A few years ago, we complained in this space that the Dandys were coasting, that they’d never get back to the fresh-squeezed citrus tonic they’d brought to rock’n’roll when they emerged from Portland in the mid-nineties as a band that could graft Rolling Stones chops atop garage-psych songs that were as louche as they were comically astringent.  Tulip Frenzy reader Zia McCabe aggressively defended the band against all charges and urged us to listen to the late stuff anew.  We did, and modified our position, but still believe that you have to go back to the era from which Thirteen Songs emerged to find the really good stuff, “We Used To Be Friends” and “Holding Me Up” notwithstanding.

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Last night, by the time they’d played “Mohammed,” we could understand better how the Dig!-era competition between the Dandys and the Brian Jonestown Massacre could have been so intense, for surely these two bands emerged from the womb as split-zygote representations of the same folk-rock band.  While playing an album onstage and in its entirety reveals the different sequencing needs of two kinds of performance, the set gathered momentum so that by the time they got to “Bohemian Like You” there was a catharsis and belated recognition of how Thirteen Tales was built around what would become the Dandy’s monster hit.  The record itself is a relic from that pre-iTunes era when albums could exist as a unit of measure, not an atomized collection of individually downloadable songs, and while in our opinion it never hung together as a single work so much as it is a great collection, last night the playing of the album as a whole was a success in itself and an assertion, which we accept, of its importance.

We missed the Pixies playing Dolittle, and those artists, from the Breeders to Lucinda Williams, tackling their records on stage.  It’s more than a gimmick, or at least it was last night.  It enables a band to focus on a moment in time when their creativity produced a body of work that can last.  Our fondest hope, after last night’s performance, is that the day the tour is over, the Dandy Warhols go back to the studio and produce music on a level with these 13 songs from 13 years ago.

Widowspeak’s “Almanac” Is A Compendium Of Facts About An Emerging Great Band

Posted in Music with tags , , , , on January 23, 2013 by johnbuckley100

When Widowspeak’s eponymous first album was released in 2011, you’d have been forgiven for thinking it was that Mazzy Star reunion we’ve all been waiting for.  Robert Earl Thomas was less adventurous than Dave Roback, maybe, though certainly his equal in sonic tastefulness, and singer Molly Hamilton sounded a lot like Hope Sandoval, minus the otherworldliness.  Now they are back with Almanac, and have surer footing, and a more aggressive pace, and we feel confident that the path they are on will take them far.

They make good partners, Thomas and Hamilton, as he shapes the sound with his lead guitar while she holds down the rhythm guitar parts forging the melody with artful phrasing.  Her voice stretches the canvas on which the songs are written across a fairly narrow frame.  Most times a baby doll husk, occasionally it loses all substance and recedes entirely into pretty fog, like Chet Baker playing trumpet on a slow song.  Widowspeak’s limitations, such as there are, emanate from whether one can live on the sustenance provided entirely by vocal meringue, and as we’ve just today heard about a restaurant in Tokyo that serves customers meals containing actual dirt, we have found ourselves nodding, seeking just a little grit, and wondering whether Widowspeak would be more satisfying listened to in longer increments if they emulated that approach.

Pareles used a Velvet Underground reference in his recent nice write up of Almanac, and while a stopped clock is occasionally right, you won’t be surprised that we beg to differ, that we think of Widowspeak less in the context of the VU than in the fourth-degree separation that comes from a young American band actually sounding more like the black ryder’s mutation of a Morning After Girls homage to the Brian Jonestown Massacre, who actually possessed the direct link to that VU sound.  Good company, though, right? More than sounding like Mazzy Star, better than sounding like one more acolyte of the Velvet Underground, Widowspeak reminds us of that magical moment we first heard the black ryder’s Aimee Nash singing with the Morning After Girls, though others will think of Miranda Lee Richards fronting the BJM.

For his part, Robert Earl Thomas is a canny lead guitarist who sounds more delicate on Almanac than he did live last November when Widowspeak opened for Woods at that amazing show at the Red Palace.  When he plays slide, he sounds like David Byrne on “The Big Country,” which of course was an homage to Phil Manzanera playing “Prairie Rose.”  All good lineage, all good music, a band with a future that links to the past — the best kind — and an album we will be listening to, over and over, until they mercifully deliver the next one.

How The Dandy Warhols See Themselves

Posted in Music with tags , , on September 1, 2010 by johnbuckley100

The arrival of the first Dandy Warhols album in 1995 was the freshest breath of air since the Pixies had announced themselves maybe seven, eight years earlier.  What a great sound, falling somewhere between the Velvets and the Fleshtones, with discordant yet chiming guitars and cocksure songwriting.  Courtney Taylor-Taylor was a charmingly androgynous front man, as perfectly formed as a Bowie character. They were that rare band –Oasis comes to mind — that the moment you heard them and saw their picture, you immediately categorized them as Rock Stars.  Even if their album sold ten copies, which you knew it wouldn’t; they were that good.

That they arrived just prior to their then-chums The Brian Jonestown Massacre made for more than just a classic rock documentary, Dig! The two bands together left a lasting impact on the best music that’s come our way since.  I remember the first time I heard The Morning After Girls and marveling how each song was either a paean to the Dandys or an homage to BJM.  Cool!

But then after 13 Tales of Urban Bohemia something went terribly wrong, one of the biggest train wrecks in rock history.  And it took my actually downloading the new compilation, The Capitol Years, 1995 – 2007, to efficiently listen to a great band’s decline and fall.  See, I haven’t been able to listen more than one time to any album they’ve released since the year 2000.  Earth To The Monkey Odditorium, or whatever their ghastly last three albums were called, were all such dreck you could find yourself wondering whether the early stuff was as great as we thought it was.  Happily, it is.

What presumably the band believes is the best of the material since then — after all, it weighs down the back half of the new compilation such that it all seems to slide into a compost heap — is not quite unlistenable, but it is certainly disappointing.  The Dandys went from having a unique guitar and vocal sound, funny songwriting, real craft, to being just a throbbing disco band with too many synthesizers and overuse of falsetto.  It’s passing sad.

At least we have the early stuff.

And I can’t help but thinking Anton Newcombe has the last laugh.

The Black Ryder’s “Buy The Ticket, Take The Ride”

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , on February 24, 2010 by johnbuckley100

Pedigree counts more at events sponsored by The Westminster Kennel Club than in modern day rock’n’roll, but well before the release of The Black Ryder’s superb first album, it was clear this was a well-bred band. At least Aimee Nash was a member of the Morning After Girls V. 1.0, (was her partner Scott Von Ryper as well?) and if an adjunct of class is whom you hang out with, The Black Ryder’s got an A-list social network — the Brian Jonestown Massacre, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Black Angels.

More than a year ago, “Burn and Fade” showed up on their MySpace page, with BRMC’s Peter Hayes sharing vocal duties, and it immediately placed TBR on the matrix.  If the bottom axis is a band’s relative immersion in the Velvet Underground, and the right axis is where they fit on the continuum between, say, the Stones upward toward the gauzy reaches of Mazzy Star and Galaxie 500, just that first song showed The Black Ryder scoring high in the upper right hand corner.

Frustratingly for us Yanks with a hankering for Aussie bands — we veterans of the long wait for The Morning After Girls’ second album (sans Ms. Nash) — Buy The Ticket, Take The Ride came out in Australia in November, got rave reviews, but as of this writing, no American release date.  Tulip Frenzy went into emergency acquisition mode, checked our Antipodal contacts, and through extraordinary measures (Amazon, credit card, paying up for the Import), are pleased to give this debut report for the American cognoscenti.

The Black Ryder are the real deal, and if Buy The Ticket, Take The Ride had found its ways to these shores in 2009, it would certainly have nestled near Assemble Head In Sunburst Sound’s When Sweet Sleep Returned high atop the Tulip Frenzy Top 10 List.  (It wouldn’t have knocked Sonic Youth outta the top slot, for those geezers gripped it with gnarled paws.)

In the keiretsu connecting the BJM and the Dandys and the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, they’re already supplying guitar strings and guitarists (BJM’s Rick Maymi, fer example) to The Black Ryder.  Unfortunately, the production checklist didn’t include making sure the drums snapped, but they methodically went through every element relating to the guitars.  I think my favorite song so far is the throbbing “What’s Forsaken,” but honestly, hear any of these songs in a club and you’ll reach for your Shazam app.

Look, I thought the early Morning After Girls recordings were some of the best sounds that came out of that miserable decade we’ve just escaped from.  I would be prone to enjoy an album featuring someone from that lineup.  This is so much better: a lovely, mid-tempo mashup of the Dig! bands that never strains.  It fits the tempo of life between 7:00 and 10:00 AM, and then again after 9:00 PM. Does that properly place it?  Music to listen to in an urban apartment with rain slapping the streets, while tea is made.  (Yeah, that kind of tea, with cream and sugar.) Now if we can only get them to buy a ticket on a Quantas flight over to these parts.

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.

The Brian Jonestown Massacre?

Posted in Music with tags on July 19, 2008 by johnbuckley100

Brian Jonestown Massacre Deny Knife Reports

By WENN, July 18 2008

American rockers BRIAN JONESTOWN MASSACRE have denied reports a knife was used during an incident in their dressing room following a concert in London last week (ends11Jul08).

The band’s guitarist Frankie Emerson reportedly sustained a stab wound during the incident, which also involved frontman Anton Newcombe.

But a spokesman for the band denies a weapon was used during the altercation at the Forum in Kentish Town.

A joint statement, issued by the band’s label and management, insists Emerson’s cuts were “caused by some glass splinters.”

The statement continues, “Frankie Emerson’s injuries were superficial to his arm and stomach, he was treated at the Royal Free Hospital in London.

“These injuries were caused by horseplay by the band in their own changing room after the gig.

“There was no knife or knives involved in any shape or form in this incident.”

Newcombe was arrested and questioned by police, but released without charge.

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