Music » Critics' Picks

Brian Jonestown Massacre

Monday, March 17; Creepy Crawl


"Keep Music Evil" -- this has been a motto and a mantra for the band known as the Brian Jonestown Massacre for almost a decade now, conjuring images of a Slayeresque sound-and-stage show, blood raining down everywhere. However, the cavalcade of chaos that swirls around the band isn't the result of pentagram-fed hokum but rather the workings of a fevered mind and broken heart. The Massacre consists of dazzlingly cracked songwriter Anton Newcombe, owner of the aforementioned heart and mind, and whoever else is signed up at the time, a lineup that changes from show to show or even onstage as "creative differences" and tempers flare.

Newcombe's songwriting is best described as pastoral passive-aggressive psycho-delic rock, like T.Rex and Arthur Lee getting into a punch-up with White Album-era Beatles on the streets of San Francisco. Lyrically, Newcombe roams from the raptures of love to the realms of malice and mistrust, frequently in the same song, blind pleasure and knowing pain intertwining. In the music of the Massacre, love is a drug, but whatever gets you high gets you low, and the comedown is always just around the corner.

In a live setting, the band can veer from ferociously brilliant to just plain ferocious, depending on Newcombe's mood. His onstage antics are legendary, and in these days of feigned "crazy rock & roller" gimmicks hawking everything from records to soft drinks, Newcombe is a fresh breath of whiskey-stained air, simply because he means everything he does. Playing from the heart is risky, but it's what the Massacre does best. When the band members are in the same place, they can be transcendent. When they're not, it's still a great show, but don't stand too close; they didn't title an album Thank God For Mental Illness for nothing.

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