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Old 02-04-2007, 11:19 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Location: "Out on tour with Smashing Pumpkins, nature kids, they don't have no function"
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Default The Brian Jonestown Massacre - Thank God For Mental Illness (1996, Bomp!)

1. Spanish Bee
2. It Girl
3. 13
4. Ballad Of Jim Jones
5. Those Memories
6. Stars
7. Free And Easy Take 2
8. Down
9. Cause I Love Her
10. Too Crazy To Care
11. Talk-Action=****
12. True Love
13. Sound Of Confusion

Given the fact that many contemporary music critics appear to be stuck in the '60s, that golden age of music that never existed, the critical acclaim awarded to San Francisco's Brian Jonestown Massacre over the years would appear to make sense. It does because for all intents the music of the BJM has regularly been a homage to the time when the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan amongst others were pushing back the boundaries of music in regards to new sounds and new subject matters. The psychedelic rock of the time obviouly left its mark on the BJM.

On Thank God For Mental Illness, the bands second full length release of 1996, the Brian Jonestown Massacre departed from the psychedelia of Their Satanic Majesties' Second Request in favour of a rootsier, driving sound. The acoustic guitars, slide playing and harmonicas give the album a feel similar to the Rolling Stones' masterpiece Beggar's Banquet, a sound the BJM had not attempted before. According the liner notes, it was recorded on July 11th 1996 "@ home" for a total cost of $17.36. Whether this is true or not is irrelevant, the band's myth has always been part of what makes its history interesting.

BJM mainman Anton Newcombe is no songwriting genius but he knows what his strengths are and plays to them on nearly all of the 13 tracks that make up this album. He is one of the great modern practicioners of the short song with most of them clocking in at under 3 minutes. His catchy melodies and playful lyrical style are showcased on album highlights such as "13" and "The Ballad of Jim Jones." The country stomp of "Those Memories", featuring a female backing vocal, is one of Newcombe's prettiest songs, concide and catchy. The arrangements on this album are stripped to the bone making it a very cohesive record from being to near end. The best songs are the most driving, "Free & Easy Take 2", "The Ballad of Jim Jones" and "Talk Minus Action Equals ****" coming to mind. The playing has a ramshackle feel that suits the songs Stonesy sound down the ground. The only real low point on this half of the album comes about halfway through "Stars" when Newcombe seems to run out of ideas, groaning and making vocals noises to stretch the song out after the lyrics have run out. It sounds unfinished and it probably is.

The final track, the 33 minute "Sound of Confusion", really is an odditty in the context of the record. It isnt so much one track as a series of untitled ones, each being longer than the albums main tracks. The first one clearly shows the bands shoegaze influences, with the reverb heavy, tranquill vocal sound that people associate with that genre. It sounds like something Spacemen 3 might have done on Playing With Fire, slow paced, relaxed and druggy sounding with a chiming guitar sound. The second one has a similar shoegazing style sound but is more upbeat with a faster pace. The third one is by far the best, a beautiful song that draws on both the acoustic side of the album and the psychedelic side. Song 4 on "Sound of Confusion" is by far the most psychedelic one, very very lanquid with lots of reverb on the vocals and a constantly droning note in the background. The last song is to be honest quite boring and seems to go on forever, a plodding psychedelic rock song, all fuzz pedals and so on.

The only real gripe I have with Thank God For Mental Illness is the inclusion of "Sound of Confusion." The rest of the album is so cohesive and of a piece that to just tack on 5 psychedlic rock songs onto the end of it doesnt really make any sense. The only great one is the third one, the acoustic-psychedelic one with Matt Hollywood on vocals. The rest could quite easily have been dropped from the album and it would actually have gave it more momentum and consistency from beginning to end.
There’s a dream that I see, I pray it can be
Look 'cross the land, shake this land - "Maybe Not", C. Marshall

Last edited by Moon Pix; 02-04-2007 at 12:46 PM.
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