Brian Jonestwon Massacre
We are the Radio
Let’s preface this with a disclaimer: I LOVE the Brian Jonestown Massacre. My love boarders on obsession, or it did at one point anyway. The music that Anton Newcombe (and whoever can stand him long enough to collaborate) creates is amazing. It is what the 1960s sounds like; a drugged psych wall of noise rock with a sense of humor and a tangible desperation. The documentary, DiG!, came along and threw the Brian Jonestown Massacre into the public eye of the music community, right where they belong. Anton was now in place to carry out his plan to “keep music evil” and this is exactly what he does on BJM’s latest release, We Are the Radio.
Coming from a huge fan of BJM, I have to say that We Are the Radio left me very disappointed. There seems to be no fun or passion in the EP, just a scowling Anton reprimanding the music community. In the press release accompanying the album Anton himself tells us the agenda for We Are the Radio: “I thought it would be interesting to create an album (We Are the Radio) to un-do all of this lowest-common-denominator-beta-wave-bullshit by using a form of geometrical composition in concert with a certain form of phase-echo-pulsation like St. George used a sword to slay the dragon.” This is a common Anton rant and I feel that he has to be laughing about it. He does things because he can; he is Anton fucking Newcombe.
When I saw BJM this summer at Lollapalooza Anton just pressed one note on a keyboard for about a minute. The rest of the band didn’t play any music. The crowd ate the antics up, and so did I. At the end of the set he furiously tinkered and toyed with keyboards and delay pedals and occasionally touched up the position of a guitar leaning on amps in order to get the maximum feedback. After about five minutes of this sonic tomfoolery Anton promptly got up and left the stage and left his Frankenstein of wall of noise to its own devices. Once again the crowd loved it, and so did I.
On We Are the Radio I do not applaud Anton’s antics. The album is basically fifteen minutes of “phase-echo-pulsation”. The song titles have the same ring as the old BJM but lack the spirit. “Never Become Emotionally Attached to Man, Woman, Beast or Child” features vocals from Sarabeth Tuceck (also co-writer of the EP) over about twenty layers of guitars and moderate feedback. So overall this is a pretty typical BJM track sonically, but a mediocre one. “Seer” has Casio beats with Sarabeth and Anton tandem vocals with an ocean of phasing ambience. This track is a head-bobber, but very forgettable. “Time is Honey (so cut the shit)” is a BJM slow jam in which the listener gets lost in and eventually bored with the sonic hum. “Teleflows v. Amplifaction” is a ho-hum white noise instrumental. “God is my Girlfriend” is the highlight of the EP. There is more shit flying through the headphones then you know what to do with, but the track suddenly fades out just as the listener is getting into the song. Then the EP ends. Anton you are such a tease.
We Are the Radio is not a keeper. I feel it is just some bullshit that Anton threw together to make some cash. I saw this album at Virgin Records for TEN BUCKS. Ten dollars for a fifteen-minute EP that falls well below the artist's potential? What is Anton thinking? In all fairness though, BJM does offer practically all their releases on their website in ogg format for FREE so I can’t really knock the band for trying to make some money. Brian Jonestown Massacre is an amazing band, and I think Anton truly has some incredible talent and vision, but the things that make BJM great do not show up on We Are the Radio.
Release date: August 23, 2005
Label: Tee Pee
Rating: 2.5 / 10
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