The Brian Jonestown Massacre, Who Killed Sgt Peppers?, A Records, 2010
Back in the day a new release from BJM just meant that a new week had begun. The band was so prolific, it seemed impossible to keep up with them. But ever since bandleader Anton Newcombe defected to Iceland, the band's release dates have become such special occasions that even longtime devotees can feel like a tuxedo and a scented invitation are required just to listen to their new stuff. Which isn't a bad thing. If there is one band out there that has paid their dues, it is BJM, and that dedication to keeping it real allows for a certain amount of well, understanding. So they've cleaned up, kicked the drugs (supposedly), and started writing lyrics in French. But does that mean they've gotten better?
That depends. The gritty, schizo genius that characterized their early work has largely evaporated over the years, and while Who Killed Sgt Peppers? shows flashes of the chaotic brilliance Newcombe was once possessed with, most of the album seems to trip itself into dance dance electronica Eurotrash shit. It lacks an organic feel and seems like it was made by a machine,rather than a human, like a Kraftwerk album. Even stand out tracks like "Unger Hinfr" are cold and lonesome sounding, as if, when you drop all the badass swirling dissonance and sassy vocals, the song itself just wants a big fat hug.
Newcombe's always been fiercly independent and adamant about following his own creative vision and dancing with the voices in his head, but as a songwriter he's always wanted us to join in. At times, he was the closest thing to John Lennon most of us had ever seen. I'm not sure that's the case anymore, which is a shame.