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The Brian Jonestown Massacre & Robert Pollard 

Reviews: Who Killed Sgt. Pepper? & We All Got Out of the Army

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The Brian Jonestown Massacre, Who Killed Sgt. Pepper?


Ondi Timoner’s 2004 film Dig! chronicled The Brian Jonestown Massacre’s initial arc to prominence in the mid-to-late ’90s and the band’s bitter rivalry with The Dandy Warhols, who got signed to a major label while BJM did not. The documentary also portrays singer Anton Newcombe’s struggles with heroin addiction and his volatile personality, which created a rock-star mythos and ended many shows in violent chaos. Newcombe is still using the group as his own vehicle for a cult of personality that, in his own mind, is equal to Brian Jones and Jim Jones combined.

For Who Killed Sgt. Pepper? Newcombe retreated to an Icelandic climate to create what might be the closest to BJM’s dance album. Like Psychic TV (whose singer, Genesis P-Orridge, raved about BJM in Dig!) Newcombe has gone from imitation ’60s psychedelic rock to psychedelic dance music, with uneven results. “Let’s Go Fucking Mental” is a waste, merely a repetitive drum-machine track with the title chanted over and over like the song was phoned in. But then “This Is The One Thing We Did Not Want To Happen” samples the drum track from Joy Division’s “She’s Lost Control” ingeniously, adding a mean guitar edge and a Newcombe vocal rant, as acerbic as ever. It’s an exercise in fascination, but also incredibly frustrating. As Jimi Hendrix said, manic depression’s a frustrating mess. (A Records)

Robert Pollard, We All Got Out of the Army


Robert Pollard is sort of an anti-rock star. The by-now 50-something former Dayton, Ohio, schoolteacher manages to rock out without any of the supposed accessories: no tattoos, light show, outrageous costumes or stage props (unless you count beer bottles, with which he knows more tricks than Tom Cruise in Cocktail). That, a few jumps and kicks worthy of a slalom skier and—oh yeah—killer songwriting. Pollard is brilliant at being able to assimilate his influences, also ’60s Britpop & psych rock, but including later prog & art punk, and create something novel from “archival” sources.

“Silk Rotor” starts the album with a velvet hand in an iron glove of power pop and sets the tone for another songwriterly solo effort post-GBV. Here Pollard veers from Beatlesque melodies to more Who-like anthems, moving from one to the next like an eccentric musical museum guide, either too brilliant or too scattered to keep up with at times, speeding “Faster To Babylon.” Amazingly, he seems to accumulate more energy as he goes on, and “On Top of the Vertigo” is so dizzying it feels like you are taking on air. (GBV Inc)

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