Friday, June 15, 2012

Review: The Brian Jonestown Massacre - Aufheben

The common theme running through reviews of "Aufheben" is that it's the best BJM album since "...And This Is Our Music". I'm not here to argue that point, as I'm mildly obsessed with this record- but here's to hoping that those who have written that statement have HEARD the records that the BJM has released in the past ten years, as there is some incredible music contained within those grooves that I feel has been under appreciated. Have a listen to tracks such as "God Is My Girlfriend", "Feel It", "Dropping Bombs On The White House", "Monkey Powder", and "Our Time", just to name a few of the stunners that Anton Newcombe has dropped during this period.

Back to "Aufheben"; the album starts with the mood setting "Panic In Babylon", which is incredibly effective in creating a vibe for the album.  While many voices cry that the album as an art form is dead, Anton and the BJM have completely blown that theory into smithereens the moment that "Panic" dissipates into the second track, "Viholliseni maalla". The transition between these two tracks is downright staggering, not to mention the fact that at this moment as a listener I'm transported to album hypnosis. You know the condition- when an incredible record is far more than a collection of songs but stands as a WHOLE collection that sustains interest and commands repeated listening of the entire record. While many of my favorite BJM tracks of the last 8 years have been rhythm oriented (such as the incredible "Feel It"), "Aufheben" is where the rhythms meet melodies that are some of the most beautiful and haunting I've ever heard.

Take the melodies in "Viholliseni maalla" (thanks to google translate we know this is Finnish for "the enemy of my country"); I have no idea what the lyrics are or what language and it really doesn't even matter. Over a beautiful motorik groove, peppered with lush organ and guitar, the exotic lead vocal melody is punctuated with an almost subliminal vocal harmony for a sound that worms through the brain, music as drug. The translated title makes me think about the fact that we are hearing something beautiful but can't necessarily interpret what the message of the words is. Reminds me about how I feel the so-called enemy's of somebody's country are just trying to be heard and understood throughout a world in which too many people have given up listening.

With "Viholliseni maalla" still ringing in our heads, "Gaz Hilarant" comes next and takes a 60's garage rock sound and filters the sound through the gauze of the future, and in many ways continues the theme I personally hear in this album (and I could be way off base), which I interpret loosely as "try to listen deeply and you might understand, don't give up." "Illuminomi" comes next and the melodic sense continues on the beautifully haunting tip, although now we know Anton is the lead singer and the words are in English, but they are just as difficult to understand as the previous ones.

Carrying on the tradition of "classic" BJM (in my opinion, Anton wrote THE greatest songs of the 1990's, and his writing spurt c1995-2000 is the modern equal to Bob Dylan 1963-1966) comes "I Want To Hold Your Other Hand" and "Clouds Are Lies"; very 'traditional" songs (seemingly after the downright futuristic sounds of the previous tracks) but no less creative and unique. Once again, the melodic sense which carries through the vocal and guitar parts are the type of things that make me such a fanatic of music; it's music in the form of the greatest drug.

I could easily write about every song on the album (they are ALL excellent, with especially high marks given to "Stairway To The Best party In The Universe" and "Seven Kinds Of Wonderful"), but this review is already far too wordy for my taste. Being as this site is geared towards the record collector, I'll also mention that the gatefold cover and double colored vinyl (itself a VERY high quality pressing) is *the* way to enjoy this masterpiece.

"Viholliseni Maalla" (ripped from vinyl)

-Derek See


  1. Great review! I feel the same way about that record! I think illuminomi is in french, and if you google the song you'll find out it is.