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Set the Controls for the Heart of Rock-n-Roll

Set the Controls for the Heart of Rock-n-Roll

by Alex V. Cook, Music Editor
first published: March, 2005

approximate reading time: minutes

The wide breadth of their ouput makes listening to this compilation feel like stumbling on the best AM radio station ever while on a cross country trip

The Brian Jonestown Massacre
...nd This Is Our Music
Tepid Peppermint Wonderland: A Retrospective
(Tee Pee Records)

Documentaries are generally my favorite kind of films. And I don't mean that in a film snob kinda way. I used to be a real film snob, but then I was into Stan Brakhage and the early Wim Wenders films, serious ponderous film snob shit. No I like documentaries like how I like Reality TV: I believe people's "real" stories are better than fiction. So, I like many was delighted to see the documentary DiG! which covered perhaps the most inconsequential music star feud ever - The Dandy Warhols vs. The Brian Jonestown Massacre. No Biggie/Tupac shootouts surrounded in mystery, just two great bands disintegrating due to squandered excess (The Warhols, with their $200K video shoot) and excess squander (The Massacre collapsing upon itself from ego, drugs, and frustration.) I left the film thinking both band were now defunct, hieroglyphics scrawled on the Giza of music history.

Or so the movie would have you believe. I'm not sure what became of the Dandy Warhols, I wish them all the best. The real revelation is that better of the two bands, the magnificent Brian Jonestown Massacre survived and flourished unbeknownst to me, who thought the sublime Strung Out in Heaven was their swan song. Anton Newcombe and varying crews (40 people have been rumored to have been in the Massacre at one point or another, rivaling my other revolving door stalwart the Fall in half the lifetime) surfaced in 2003 with the positively tranquil ...nd This is Our Music, showing that not only are they still capable of the best modern psychedelic hooks in the business, but of complex and majestic orchestration. Capped by answering machine messages from a woman first tearing lead singer Newcombe a new one than later begging for his call, this magic carpet ride is one of the finest bliss-out records in recent memory.

The perfect pop melody of "When Jokers Attack" and "Geezers" matched with the galactic throb of "Prozac vs Heroin" tempered with the deep sorrow of "Maryanne" exhibit the full range of songwriting of which this vital unit is capable, and that's only on the first half of this 18-song cycle. "What Did You Say?" explodes in an array of drums and horns similar to the Master Musicians of Jajouka that their Rolling Stone namesake helped unleash on the general public ages ago. "Prozac vs Heroin Revisited" is given the Neu! treatment, pulsing like your retuned synapses, keeping the even pace with this album. This album has nary a weak moment on it, its delicious melifluousness sinking its hooks into you deeper and deeper.

According to the authorities at Tee Pee records, the Massacre is still recording their next assult on our rock-n-roll hearts so to fill in the gaps, they have compiled the gargantuan Tepid Peppermint Wonderland retrospective set. Its 38 tracks lazing about in a hookah haze on two cd's - a motley cast of early singles, live tracks and rarities. Now if you are looking for displays of disaster like those depicted in DiG! (and I experienced one of those myself about a decade ago, where I was forced to pay for the drinks of my party who I had seduced away from seeing Rev Horton Heat's v8-tight set down the street so they could experience the worst live show ever with me) they ain't here. In fact, the live tracks, particularly "Let Me Stand Next To Your Flower" and the ridiculously great "Swallowtail" are the highlights of this gumbo peppered with the finest parts of the Stones, the Cure, the Byrds and even (cough) the Beatles. Also present is the excellent dis track "Not If You Were the Last Dandy on Earth.", the sly slinky "Stars," the first song our hero wrote on guitar, and countless other gems. I could keep going on every single song, but fortunately, the multitudinous band members do that very thing in the liner notes.

The wide breadth of their ouput makes listening to this compilation feel like stumbling on the best AM radio station ever while on a cross country trip. If you need to get hip with the Massacre, and I suspect you do, dig out that tambourine, throw this on infinte repeat and disappear in some of the greatest rock-n-roll you never heard.

Alex V. Cook
Music Editor

Alex V. Cook listens to everything and writes about most of it. His latest book, the snappily titled Louisiana Saturday Night: Looking for a Good Time in South Louisiana's Juke Joints, Honky-Tonks, and Dance Halls is an odyssey from the backwoods bars and small-town dives to the swampside dance halls and converted clapboard barns of a Louisiana Saturday Night. Don't leave Heathrow without it. His first book Darkness Racket and Twang is available from SideCartel. The full effect can be had at alex v
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