Release Date: Feb 23, 2010
Record label: A
Genre(s): Indie, Rock, Alternative, Psychedelic
Whatever the accretion of stories about his activities over the years, Anton Newcombe's obsessive interest has remained his music first and foremost, and by 2010 and the release of Who Killed Sgt. Pepper?, Newcombe and a rotating cast of collaborators showed that his spark had not only continued but found new areas of expression. That may seem odd in part given that the album is retrospective in other areas -- besides a punning title along the lines of Their Satanic Majesties' Second Request, Who Killed Sgt.
Despite having a ten album career spanning the best part of 20 years, it's kind of sad in a way that Anton Newcombe is most notorious for being the unstable subject of the 2004 rockumentary DiG!. Sad because along the way, he's been responsible for some of the most genuinely innovative music to come out of California since the Sixties. Indeed if there's one predictable outcome of yet another Brian Jonestown Massacre record, it's to expect the unexpected, and the delightfully titled Who Killed Sgt Pepper? certainly lives up to expectations, of sorts.
Throughout the Brian Jonestown Massacre's various travels in Spacemen 3 fuzz-rock, Byrdsian jangle-pop, and Dylanesque country-blues, the one constant has been Newcombe's alternately venomous/vulnerable voice. But ever since Ondi Timoner's notorious 2004 documentary Dig! cast his erratic, sometimes violent personality in a most unflattering lens, he's seemed less willing to put himself front and center in his own music. He deferred most of the vocal duties on 2005's We Are the Radio to guest singer Sarabeth Tucek and spent the duration of 2008's nigh impenetrable My Bloody Underground submerged in a lo-fi murk.
Brian Jonestown Massacre was a force to be reckoned with in the late '90s, churning out album after album of stoned, '60s-flavored garage rock that was retro in the best sense of the word and always beholden to frontman Anton Newcombe's peculiar anachronistic vision. But the 2000s saw Brian Jonestown Massacre on a consistent downward slide, it the apparent victim of both Newcombe's creative eccentricities as well as his own self-destructive urges. Seeming like the final nail in the coffin, 2008's My Bloody Underground was a virtually unlistenable, drugged-out mix of noise and bad-trip psychedelia that marketed itself as some sort of musical statement.
Has Anton Newcombe lost his goddamn mind, or does he just want everyone to think so? And does it really matter? These among other questions burned my brain throughout my ascetically excruciating listening experience of Brian Jonestown Massacre’s new album, Who Killed Sgt. Pepper? Still, by the time I finally reached the end of its interminable one-hour runtime, I was left with no answers, only further uncertainty — not only as to the band and their terrifying lack (abundance?) of self-awareness, but also my life, our lives, existence, nature, the Universe. I suddenly hated myself, hated my surroundings; mostly, I hated Anton Newcombe.
Their eleventh full-length attempt at a place in respected rock lineage. Matthew Horton 2010 Anton Newcombe, native Californian and barely-hinged frontman of The Brian Jonestown Massacre, finds it tough to get taken seriously. A reputation assembled over several years at the psych-rock coalface was in tatters after the release of notorious 2004 rockumentary DiG!, which saw the band and pals (well, erstwhile pals) The Dandy Warhols falling out with gusto in a riot of fisticuffs and colossal hubris.