Brian Jonestown Massacre

Brian Jonestown Massacre

Reportedly, the tracks on Brian Jonestown Massacre's latest effort, Zero, are rejects from the powers that be at TVT Records. The band's leader, only constant member, and resident madman, Anton Alfred Newcombe, apparently miffed that the suits failed to see his evolving brilliance, opted to exercise a clause in his TVT contract that allowed him to release this six-song EP on his own Evil label. His upcoming TVT disc is titled Bravery, Repetition, and Noise, and the artwork here implies that these are "Zero Songs from the Album Bravery." Get it?

It's easy to see why the suits balked; depending on the song, Newcombe is at his most stubbornly inventive or most incessantly boring here. He gets rolling with "Let Me Stand Next to Your Flower," which begins with the sound of a modem connecting. "You're just like the voice in my head," he sings, and since the song is credited to Newcombe/Newcombe, it's plausible that that voice has become a co-writer: Anton's personality has now split to the point of useful collaboration! Indeed, he's the main man when it comes to keepin' it un-real. "You're like candy to me, but candy's no good," he croons in the chorus, while guitars and basses chime and bloom around him. As an old-time radio fades with the song into oblivion, Newcombe launches "Sailor," a foggy three-chorder that lands halfway between '90s shoe-gazing and '60s Carnaby Street psychedelia, always pleasant waters for the Jonestown crew. This will sound familiar to anyone who got on board with BJM's earlier Bomp releases, Their Satanic Majesties' Second Request and Thank God for Mental Illness.

Despite a respectable Robert Smith impersonation, "Open Heart Surgery" heads off to the land of nod. Even a great title like "Whatever Hippie Bitch" remains unredeemed. The grand finale, "A New Kind of Sick," is an epic that makes up for the three previous snorers. Newcombe fleshes out a lovely arrangement with string synths, acoustic guitar, and a sampled cello, then casts us off to a pleasant dreamland on a bed of gently floating synth patches, rolling like high-speed clouds across the sky. What seems like the final chord is allowed to decay for more than four minutes; as it's about to completely crumble, the theme returns on an acoustic guitar and organ, building just to fade again. It's superb work, but at 13 minutes of grandeur, TVT probably figures it ain't gonna rival the first-quarter figures of their Nothingface and Sevendust releases. Oh, well, life's like that. Thankfully, Newcombe, cast (often willingly) as a nutter, was clever enough to wangle that EP clause, allowing us the good fortune to hear these songs, which hint at a bigger work in progress. He may not be the commercial messiah TVT banked on, but his shenanigans never fail to entertain.

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