RATING: 9/10 – TOP TRASH
I’ll start by saying the Brian Jonestown Massacre are one of my favorite bands, so I may need to wipe the drool off my face at points. They’re one of the rare bands who manage to operate the way John Peel described The Fall: “always different, always the same.” Though ringleader Anton Newcombe dons and tosses musical hats at will – now droning shoegazers, now sneering British Invaders – they always manage to be instantly recognizable. “Aufheben,” though distinct from rockier past efforts, isn’t a kaleidoscopic tour of everything the way “Who Killed Sgt. Pepper” was. The album hones in, laser-like, on a stoned Eastern drone-rock sound; all triple-layered vocals as on “Seven Kinds of Wonderful,” and BJM’s celebrated penchant for sitar as on “Face Down on the Moon,” but this buzzing electric haze is paired with a Krautrock-y rhythm section, sharp drums and a strong focus on beat drive “Illuminomi” and “Vilholliseni Maalla.”
Overall, this record follows the pattern laid down by 2008 effort “My Bloody Underground.” Though often maligned, that album worked for its success in establishing mood – this album works (better than its stylistic father) because of its insistent focus on groove. This is a double-edged sword, though: when it works, it really fucking works – tracks like “Stairway to the Best Party in the Universe” can hang with the band’s absolute best, but the propensity for jams sometimes leads the band into tracks like the opener, which spins its wheels for 4 minutes without really doing much. It’s a minority occurrence, for sure. Though some tracks can feel empty initially (Anton seems to be minimizing his presence here – vocals are subdued or obscured, if present at all), overall “Aufheben” just seems to be more focused than any other Jonestown album on sheer soundscape (for evidence, see the opening to “Blue Order/New Monday”), rather than ‘rock’ or ‘lyrics’, and so this is unquestionably an album that demands several plays and attentive listening before it unfolds its secret psychedelic jam mojo – I confess I needed three plays before the torrent of technicolor headfuckery inside this record came pouring out.
“Aufheben” appears to me to be the mark of veteran musicians, masters of their craft, yet thankfully slaving hard to push their sound forward. Jonestown are utterly their own band at this point. This record, a subtle, sonically rich tab of pure LSD merely posing as a new album, sounds like nothing else that will be released this year. 13 albums in, BJM show no signs of slowing down.
BUY: Widely available; try google.