The Brian Jonestown Massacre

Who Killed Sgt. Pepper?


Feb 18, 2010 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

Brian Jonestown Massacre was a force to be reckoned with in the late '90s, churning out album after album of stoned, '60s-flavored garage rock that was retro in the best sense of the word and always beholden to frontman Anton Newcombe's peculiar anachronistic vision. But the 2000s saw Brian Jonestown Massacre on a consistent downward slide, it the apparent victim of both Newcombe's creative eccentricities as well as his own self-destructive urges. Seeming like the final nail in the coffin, 2008's My Bloody Underground was a virtually unlistenable, drugged-out mix of noise and bad-trip psychedelia that marketed itself as some sort of musical statement. Given the mess that was My Bloody Underground, no one could have expected much from the follow up. The album's title, the cover's depiction of Jesus in thorny headdress, and song titles like "Lets Go Fucking Mental," "White Music," and "Super Fucked," suggested that Newcombe fell down the rabbit hole once again. But Who Killed Sgt. Pepper?, while not exactly a return to form, is a more successful experimental effort than was My Bloody Underground.

The album marks the return of co-founding guitarist/vocalist Matt Hollywood, and Spaceman 3's Will Carruthers joins the band on bass, but neither of these facts matters much in the face of the music, which relies heavily on beat-driven atmospherics and dark, danceable feels. The opener, "Tempo 116.7 (reaching for dangerous levels of sobriety)" is a hazy, Indian-flavored daze that defies the "sobriety" suggestion of its title. "Let's Go Fucking Mental" is hypnotic drum and bass drone with title phrase being repeated ad nauseam. "This Is the First of Your Last Warning (Icelandic)" is a swirling female-sung, beat-driven dance number. "The One" is industrial in flavor, and "Our Time" almost sounds like a Stone Roses outtake from 1989. At over 71 minutes, the album is overlong, but at least it is cohesive. In some weird way, these songsbeat-driven, often sung in a foreign language, and seldom making a whole lot of sensehang together. It's an exercise in futility trying to get into the musical mind of Anton Newcombe. But at least with Who Killed Sgt. Pepper?, it's getting a bit more interesting to try. (

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