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Brother JT3 / The Brian Jonestown Massacre - Hang In There, Baby / ...And This Is Our Music

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Artist: Brother JT3 / The Brian Jonestown Massacre

Album: Hang In There, Baby / ...And This Is Our Music

Label: Drag City

Review date: Nov. 21, 2003

Sure, there are still plenty of drugs around. Probably some good new ’uns I’ve yet to hear of. But what ever happened to psychedelics? You know. Acid. Shrooms. Timothy Leary. Terrence McKenna. An entire discipline of manufacture, set and setting that, while never as ubiquitous as marijuana, did a lot more to propel the mystical experimentation we associate with the late ’60s counterculture. All seems pretty goddamn quaint now, don’it? You can still get your hands on them, and most college freshmen still claw through at least one nutty weekend trippin’ on LSD, but their influence on art and music has waned considerably. Most of the music we now associate with psychedelics sounds deeply similar to the music the baby boomers associated with psychedelics.

Those drugs faded for a reason, I suppose – they promised the sort of enlightenment you’ll never get for five bucks, and did some damage to some people. Same thing with the bed-hopping “sexual revolution”: It disappeared because it wasn’t right for most people. But, shit, maybe booze, pot, smirking cynicism and serial monogamy aren’t right for most people either. Anyroad, it’s a shame the “culture” surrounding psychedelics never really made it past ’69. A lot of amusing notions went out with the bathwater.

At least a few anachronistic “acid rockers” manage to transcend nostalgia, time after time. At its inception, San Fran’s Brian Jonestown Massacre sounded more like My Bloody Valentine than anything else. Only a few albums in did the rotating cast of dozens start copping moves from the mod, janglin’, pre-Sticky Fingers Stones. After they tried that, they realized they liked it, and stuck with it long enough to the point where these days they can be counted on for an affectingly woozy new elpee every other year or so.

It’s difficult to separate the BJM’s chimey psych-pop from the Mansonian self-hype of frontman Anton Newcombe (to be fair, one of the most intriguing narcissist timebombs in the 50-year history of rock), but it’s increasingly worth it, more so than ever on …And This Is Our Music (on Tee Pee Records, the Massacre’s saddest, most melodic, most honest record to date. Newcombe invites in a few guest vocalists, shifts lyrical angles and indulges in enough orchestral cinematics to override his own ominous self-mythology and break through the clouds again and again. Bob your head to the driving “When Jokers Attack”, or check the triumphant “Geezers” for a slow dance with the dweller on the threshold. There’re still plenty of crypto-depressing song titles such as “A New Low In Getting High” and “You Look Great When I’m Fucked Up”, but there’s enough joy in this record to make the sadness mean something. And when this sort of sad sinks in, it ain’t the self-pitying self-reproach you get from booze and Mark Eitzel; it’s the hollowed-out melancholy you get when you realized you’ve traveled too far to get back to where you once belonged, and as much as you like it here and dig the view, you miss home this time of year, and like the man said, you ain’t going back. That’s the sort of thing the Brian Jonestown Massacre is good for, and when they’re on point, you don’t have what it takes to antagonize them for never quite getting past Their Satanic Majesties Request.

You’re on sturdier ground with Brother JT(3), former frontman for breezy garage throwbacks the Original Sins. JT jettisoned the cool cynicism of the last few Sins’ discs a while ago, and he’s now an unequivocating spokesman for the proper outlook one needs to indulge in all sorts of hefty psychedelics and still rap with strangers without spooking them. He’s an optimist, essentially, with a grand sense of humor. As of 2002’s Spirituals, he began taking more cues from the buoyancy of Southern tent revivals than from the antiauthoritarian humor of the ’60s. And while Hang In There, Baby is one of the most musically conservative records he’s ever slapped his initials on, it’s a lot of fun to have in the dash on a sunny day, and perhaps a necessary chaser for Anton Newcombe’s dead-serious mood swings.

JT has never resisted the obvious associations with psychedelics, from the Sins’ lusty, organ-anchored The Hardest Way through his own solo joints Maybe We Should Take Some More? and Dosed And Confused. True to form, on Hang In There’s lynchpin track “Head Business”, he slurs “What I do with my head is my own damn bidness / Can I get a witness?… I ain’t talkin’ ‘bout no junk / I ain’t talkin’ ‘bout no gittin’ drunk / I ain’t talkin’ ‘bout no blow…” But that’s it for specific discourse on the glories of stretching out one’s own rubber skull. The rest is a new spin on set and setting that’s as appealing to those of us too careless with our own neuroses as it is to drug fanatics. There’s “Getting There”, the sort of breezy road-tripper Deadheads always wanted but never got, even with “Touch of Grey”. There’s “Let’s Not and Say We Did”, which brings back a touch of the Original Sins’ coy humor. But in case you thought JT was back to his old cynical ways, he closes with “Move On”, a protracted furrow that doesn’t so much let the freak banner fly as it lets the freak molasses drip, the freak stalactites form.

So. “Psychedelia” might have done tripped itself into permanent irrelevance, but the reheated leftovers, seasoned with new offbeat wisdom, still taste pretty good.

By Emerson Dameron

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