CD Review of My Bloody Underground by Brian Jonestown Massacre
Recommended if you like
Marilyn Manson, Jesus & Mary Chain, Galaxie 500, Spacemen 3
a Records
Brian Jonestown Massacre:
My Bloody Underground

Reviewed by Mojo Flucke, PhD


liffs Notes version: If the Cocteau Twins and Misfits bore a love child, it would be Anton Newcombe, who is Brian Jonestown Massacre.

Sound cool? Read on. He and a cast of thousands (some of whom went on to star in Ride, the Raveonettes, and the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club) have played together in his band since it formed in 1994, but only Newcombe has been the constant over 13 albums.

He's kind of like your flawed genius friend that bitches a lot. Pretty smart, creative, and a wicked pithy tongue, but his complaining has no end, and he – and you – suffer for it. So you see him around, but you don't really make a habit of hanging out with him as much as you could. The same can be said about My Bloody Underground: The music sounds great, down-to-midtempo noisy pop a la Jesus & Mary Chain but more acoustic/psychedelic, with beautiful layer upon layer of distortion, lo-fi feedback, and reverb.

On its surface, My Bloody Underground – BJM's first album in four years – is a muddy masterpiece of ambient pop, a paean to psychedelic rock and the generations who have kept it alive in the four decades since the Summer of Love. But upon closer examination, it becomes ugly; almost too ugly to enjoy. The opening cut, with its groovy guitar beat and unintelligible lyrics, is, it turns out, a one-time, one-laugh joke once one realizes its title is "Bring Me the Head of Paul McCartney on Heather Mills' Wooden Peg (Dropping Bombs on the White House)." The lovely minor-key solo piano etude Newcombe wrote when he was nine years old becomes "We Are the Niggers of the World," which to me is some sort of play on words using the John Lennon song of a similar name – but it falls short of offering any comprehensible statement. And then there's this other cut, a great little upbeat ambient instrumental that  bears the title "Who Fucking Pissed in My Well?"

Great stuff, if you like concentrating on how the world is out to get you, or taking pleasure in drudgery and annoyance. Or if you're the kind of person that looks at the latest high school or university shooting as some sort of proof of your own personal theory of how much the world sucks.

The thing is, there's lots of great stuff banging around inside Anton Newcombe's head; stuff anyone with an appreciation for '60s rock – the sound, the chords, the energy – can relate to, and enjoy, if he just gave us half a chance. But no, he's gotta frost the cake with a stinky layer of Marilyn Manson, as if he's afraid the world won't accept his tuneage without a cattle-prod dose of shocking ugliness. Fine, if you gotta. With new titles, this record would have gotten at least three and a half stars out of this critic, maybe more.

If you're into trippy, not-electronic retro-pop, my suggestion would be to drop this record into your iTunes and rename all the songs. Many of them are instrumentals, anyway. Rather than his titles (such as "Automatic Faggot for the People"), choose something more in keeping with your personality, rather than Anton Newcombe's (he's big into cults, and apparently watches a lot of “Wheel of Fortune,” as the title of his band, as well as many of his songs, relies on portmanteaus – in the same vein as Vanna White's "Before & After" puzzles). No one's gotta know – or care – what he originally told your iPod to call them.

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