The Brian Jonestown Massacre returns to The Fillmore for the first time since 2010 for a night this Friday, May 11.The band’s latest album, Aufheben, scheduled officially for released on May 7 but available via online streaming sources, has been described by frontman and multi-instrumentalist Anton Newcomb as a soundtrack for the 2012 apocalypse. Featuring ex-Spacemen 3 bassist Will Carruthers and off-and-on BJM member Matt Hollywood, there are high expectations for Aufheben to pull through as one of the band’s most well-imagined albums in years.
The sound of the band is consistently influenced by psychedelic music from the 1960s, but spans genres with elements of shoegaze, jangle pop and garage rock. Aufheben features heavy use of cross-cultural sounds, pulling mostly from the middle east, but also featuring songs in languages other than english and even some animal noises, (not limited to the growling of an exotic desert creature on the opening track) and of course a healthy level of the BJM’s standard psychedelia. Experimental in a very different way from the band’s previous album, Who Killed Sgt. Pepper?, Aufheben is earthy and breezy, once again displaying the BJM’s level of commitment to mixing a variety of genres.
Anyone who has seen Dig!, the documentary that followed the band for seven years, already knows that Newcomb, the main songwriter and driving force of the band, is known as much for his hard-headed disposition as he is for his incredible influence shaping the Brian Jonestown Massacre. A brilliant yet unpredictable character, Newcomb’s history of on-stage aggression, drunkenness and extreme perfectionism has earned him a reputation for unpredictable performances.
Since their formation in San Francisco in 1990, the band has gone through over 40 members, some of whom left because of extreme tension within the band, while others were disbanded due to Newcomb’s high expectations. In the past few years, Newcomb has partially disbarred his dysfunctional reputation by quitting, for the most part, drugs and alcohol in favor of a sober lifestyle and a friendlier demeanor. Still, his change in behavior hasn’t transformed the BJM’s live shows into “kum-ba-yah” meditation circles. During the band’s appearance at Austin’s Psych Fest in April, Newcomb treated the audience to a surly dose of his typical rants. As the BJM moves through their current tour, it seems that Newcomb has not abandoned his perfectionist tendencies, commanding that his fellow bandmates restart songs from the top, which ultimately, many reviews say, resulted in an impressive high quality of performance and musicianship. But at what cost?
The show is nonetheless unpredictable. Recall the last time the BJM was at the Fillmore, when the band was humble, stoic, and hardly like they appeared in Dig!. When it comes down to it, the audience can decide whether they prefer the distanced, more controlled and predictable show, or the chaotic gigs of the band’s earlier days, which often resulted in broken instruments, scuffles, and major onstage tension. How the members of the band will perform at the Fillmore on May 11, only time will tell. Opening for The Brian Jonestown Massacre on May 11 is psychedelic rock band The Blue Angel Lounge.
The Brian Jonestown Massacre perform at The Fillmore on Friday, May 11. Tickets are $32 on Live Nation and the show starts at 8pm.