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Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Halcyon Digest
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Fat Possum
Brian Jonestown Massacre
My Bloody Underground

Rating: 6.8/10 ?

May 9, 2008
Anton Newcombe and his fellow Jonestownians are back with their first full length after a 4-year hiatus. My Bloody Underground is an album versed in its influences, obviously expressed within the title - My Bloody Valentine (in particular Loveless) and the creative mindset of John Cale's contributions to the Velvet Underground, to be specific. In theory, My Bloody Underground isn't much removed from anything the group has done prior, but rather acts more as a summary of their entire career to date and stands as a document to what remains of the life and creativity left in a band notorious for its personal differences and bristling egos.

The album's lead track, "Bring Me the Head of Paul McCartney on Heather Mill's Wooden Peg (Dropping Bombs on the White House)," reveals that Newcombe is unlikely to grow out of his Rolling Stones idolatry phase anytime soon. The track brews a concoction of December's Children's garage guitars and the always popular psychedelia of Our Satanic Majesties Request. It also shows he's not steering away from controversy - just take a look at that song title. Many look at Newcombe as some kind of altered-universe deity, yet he stays surprisingly relevant in lyrical content; the track plays like a satirical Mick Jagger and Kevin Shields take on today's issues.

The rest of My Bloody Underground is more closely related to the debut Brian Jonestown Massacre LP, 1995's Methodrone, than to anything else in their career, and considering the Olympic-length wait since the band's last record it is not all that surprising that Newcombe should want to get back to basics and make a somewhat start fresh. After the umpteenth lineup change, an inconsistent touring schedule and legendary hit-or-miss live show, and several label changes, it is understandable that an artist should want to return to a process that is comfortable and safe to a certain extent. Newcombe may be thought of as an untraditional artist in many different ways, but his insecurities and approach to creating music often slip through the cracks - not wanting to live in complete chaos is a relatively universal human sentiment.

Comprised of nothing but himself and a piano that's slightly out of tune, the likewise scathingly-titled "Niggers of the World" defines Newcombe in nearly six-minutes. There are many flaws to the recording - the lo-fidelity, the piano's inability to sustain a proper note, and Newcombe's own rough playing - but it works with a palette of emotion that's anything but stale. Although not necessarily preferable for repeat listening, Newcombe's songs do provide insight into the mind of an artist and leave open much room for interpretation, which is worth noting in an age of digital precision where many artists make the slickest productions possible and leave very little of the raw concept to their finished recordings.

"Who Cares Why," the fifth track, is the first heavy transition point in the record, providing the band's trademark droning backbeat and swirling guitars over delayed vocals - the perfect formula for a shoegaze sensation. Though as a whole the album doesn't make any drastic shifts, the most interesting aspect of My Bloody Underground is its often abrupt track-to-track transitions. The album goes back and forth from stripped-down productions to behemoth, multi-layered tracks where no one instrument is audible from the other.

For all there is to like about My Bloody Underground, it would be deceptive to say the album doesn't have its share of flaws, because they are prevalent throughout. Although the vast majority of the record stays consistent, as on just about every Brian Jonestown Massacre record Newcombe always finds a way (or must resort to, depending on how you see it) to throw in a few buckets of filler. Clocking in at right around 75 minutes, My Bloody Underground could've easily been cut down to under an hour and been just as solid, likely more so. One thing Newcombe hasn't seemed to grasp is that listening to an album is very much akin to having a conversation with an artist, and like any conversation there is only so much we want to hear. The essential details are what matter, and the rest of the trivial shit is useless.

Taken as it stands, My Bloody Underground rests in a coherent line with the rest of the Brian Jonestown Massacre discography. It may not stray too far from the band's trademark sound, but it does provide a bit more intimacy in that Newcombe seems to be reflecting on himself as an artist more than he has in the past. Because of this, My Bloody Underground - the thirteenth studio album from the band - serves as a proper introduction into the world of Brian Jonestown Massacre and their vast catalogue of hit-and-miss productions as well as Methodrone does.

Reviewed by John Bohannon
An LAS contributing writer based in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, John Bohannon is also a regular contributor to the pages of Prefixmag.com, Daytrotter.com, and Impose Magazine.

See other reviews by John Bohannon



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