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The Brian Jonestown Massacre
Bravery, Repetition and Noise

The Brian Jonestown Massacre are a very eclectic and enigmatic band. Since their formation in San Francisco in 1990, they have jumped from label to label (Bomp, TVT, Tangible), they have staged drunken arguments on-stage (or are they real?), and they employ a male tambourine player to play with them during their live shows who hilariously seems to take his artistry very seriously.

Following rumors of label-feuding, the band has finally released the follow-up to their major label debut Strung Out in Heaven, which was released way back in 1998 to mixed reviews. The consistently strong new record Bravery, Repetition and Noise will not disappoint fans of the band who have been patiently waiting for the next release. The smaller label and thinner production (this one is on Bomp) seems to suit the band's drunken barroom sound to a tee. Though a very different record than what BJM fans have come to expect, Repetition is their best record since 96's Take It from the Man.

The Brian Jonestown Massacre have long been praised and criticized alike as a revivalist band with a close kinship to their influences. My rebuttal to naysayers who attack the band for being derivative of The Rolling Stones and Sixties psychedelic pop is simple; as long as the music is good, who the fuck cares. The genres that BJM experiment with may not be new, but the catchiness of their hooks, the dark warmth of their melodies, and their wall-of-sound drone are completely unique.

The Jim Jarmusch image on the cover is not the only perplexing thing about Bravery, Repetition and Noise. After one listen, I immediately began wondering what had happend to the trademark BJM sound during their hiatus from recording. Several numbers have a very 60's feel to them such as the Hammond organ accentuated "Sailor," but overall Bravery has a closer alliance to the post-punk sound of the Cure and Echo and the Bunnymen. The songs are catchy in a very moody way, and I swear to god that is Morrisey singing on "Open Heart Surgery;" the records strongest track.

Another noticeable influence is Syd Barret. The mainly acoustic "If I Love You" sounds like an outtake from The Madcap Laughs.

Amazingly, this smorgasbord of sounds meshes together very well to create a record that plays well as a whole and is never disjointed. Antonne's understated vocals and the melodic drone of Matt Hollywood's bass are the glue that bind it all together. The Stones-inflected grooves found on other BJM releases may be missing, but fans will find the band's decision to redefine their sound very rewarding.

If this is the appetizer to something greater on a major label follow-up, then I will be first in line to pick up the next record. But my sense is that this is a band that operates best by keeping things simple. Embracing the influence of the 80's, the band has brought themselves gracefully themselves gracefully into this decade with an unpredicatably fresh sound.

-- Robert Lanham


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[email protected] | March 2002 | Issue 24
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