Album Review: The Brian Jonestown Massacre – Who Killed Sgt. Pepper?


Apparently, Sgt. Pepper is dead. How he died is unknown to me (maybe he blew his mind out in a car?), but Anton Newcombe and his psychedelic posse, The Brian Jonestown Massacre, have declared it so on their twelfth album. He was birthed and lived his life throughout the Beatles’ 1967 classic record about the sergeant and his Lonely Hearts Club Band as they revolutionized the entire genre of rock and roll, but now he is dead and gone. However, thanks to BJM, we are able to follow him into the afterlife on a record that spans the vast world of sound bringing in an obscene number of influences from everywhere in music. This is the eulogy of the fictitious leader who turned rock and roll from a rebellious act to a full scale revolution. You say you want a revolution? Anton Newcombe and company sure do.

The album starts with “Tempo 116.7 (Reaching for Dangerous Levels of Sobriety)”, a cultured number that sounds as though the Taj Mahal were now in outer space. The drums within the song almost sound robotic, while the constant Eastern drone that plays without the song creates mosaic patterns of sound that make you shocked that this is how the Brian Jonestown Massacre is merely kicking things off. Not just anybody can create a sound like this. The beat, the drone and other hooks added within the song make the five-and-a-half minutes of chaos feel like a journey through the desert. The following track, “The Heavy Knife” is a number where the band simply just rocks their hardest. The cymbals are crashing with such intensity while the guitar soloing intensifies with every second. And just when you feel like your head will explode, it fades out (into the self explanatory track “Let’s Go Fucking Metal”).

“The One” is an industrial bone crusher of a tune that would be what I listen to as I battle robots. The drumming is so intense (really fucking intense) and the guitar is like Trent Reznor’s in a time when he was recording songs about fornicating with animals. This album is all over the place. Where could it go next? “Someplace Else Unknown,” that’s where. This apocalyptic rocker is a bass and drum deal with creepy sounds coming in and out of the background constantly, while Anton eerily sings in a way that makes you think Sgt. Pepper has found his way to Hell. “Feel It (Of Course We Fucking Do)” is a sort of trance number that would give the Disco Biscuits a run for their money. You can easily lose your mind within this song as the fast paced tempo and triumphant hook are more than enough to get you on your feet.

And the Brian Jonestown Massacre eases you with the spectacularly titled finale, “Felt-Tipped Pen Pictures of UFOs”, where ambient and peaceful keyboards play as two vocal samples are played. One is the voice of the deceased John Lennon, discussing the entire “Beatles being bigger than Jesus” debacle and the other is a Liverpool girl ranting and raving about Paul, John, George, and Ringo. It’s the type of ending that lets you know Sgt. Pepper made it to heaven and will be thought of in respect by his peers, followers and friends for all eternity. And it’s the type of ending that shows that the Brian Jonestown Massacre, against all odds, is still indeed making stellar records.

Of course, Newcombe was not alone in his endeavors on this record. As any avid listener of the Brian Jonestown Massacre knows, they have undergone lineup changes more than the cast of The Real World. This time Newcombe was joined in Germany and Iceland by Will Carruthers of Spaceman 3, Icelandic vocalist Unnur Andrea Einarsdottir and a plethora of World musicians. On top of that, former guitarist Matt Hollywood has returned to the band after ten years, so with unique collaborations and the influence of being back with an old friend, it’s easy to see how BJM could make such a unique record. “It’s been a laugh a minute,” Hollywood stated recently indicating that the band is no longer up to it’s self-destructive antics and they’re just, “really happy to be going out and playing music.”

Was Sgt. Pepper more important than Jesus? Who led the bigger revolution? Revolution is a pretty big word, but Newcombe once said something about starting his own once. If you can recall in the documentary DiG! (I’m sure the band hates how much this movie is referenced), there is a scene when Newcombe describes the Dandy Warhols as a band with who “is going to kick off a musical revolution with us.” However, the Dandys didn’t revolutionize all too much, they just went on to record songs about Vegans, while Newcombe and the Brian Jonestown Massacre did everything on their own terms and brought in a musical level of intellect that not many in modern society have been able to achieve. If he’s trying to lead a revolution, destroy the system and kick some ass, he’s on his way. And if he keeps making records as intricate and diverse as this, he might get his wish.

Who Killed Sgt. Pepper? Album Review: The Brian Jonestown Massacre   Who Killed Sgt. Pepper?