Going into The Brian Jonestown Massacre, I had no idea what to expect. Coming out of it, I have no idea what to think. I had never heard of The Brian Jonestown Massacre before, and after listening to a few of their past releases, it was hard to get a firm grasp on the band’s sound. Their most recent release is no different. The album has so many influences that it’s hard to determine exactly what the album sounds like. It’s not quite a modern version of classic rock, it’s not quite psychedelic, it’s not quite post-rock, it’s not quite neo-folk, it’s not quite garage rock and it’s not quite shoegaze. Somehow, The Brian Jonestown Massacre is a menagerie of all these genres and many more, and when it works, it really works.
A quick glance at the Spotify page for The Brian Jonestown Massacre will reveal that the self-titled album is their 18th full-length release. The band has as many singles and EPs as they have albums. The band releases a staggering amount of music, but based on this most recent release, the band’s prolificity is not a hindrance whatsoever.
The Brian Jonestown Massacre’s driving opener “Drained” proves to be an ambitious song to follow. It starts the entire album off on the right foot. “Drained” sounds like it could be the grittier, less grandiose little brother to some of the most popular Britpop songs of the late ’90s and early ’00s. It’s bluesy and fluid, and overall, it’s so much fun to hear.
The rest of the album struggles to match the highs of “Drained,” especially toward the back end. However, other standouts include the haunting “Tombes Oubliées” and the bluesy rocker “Cannot Be Saved.” Unfortunately, both of these songs are found early in the tracklist, which actually hurts the album. Placing three of the best songs in the first four slots of the album is decidedly not a good decision. It leaves the band playing catch up for the rest of the work, reusing the elements that made the album’s highs so great.
With this in mind, it is easy to see why The Brian Jonestown Massacre begins to skid. Despite its varied influences and multiple sonic motifs, The Brian Jonestown Massacre becomes a little monotonous as it runs. The reverb-soaked guitars and vocals begin to sounds washed out, and the grooves begin to be recycled. The song “Remember Me This” is especially guilty. As one of the later songs on the album, “Remember Me This” needs to bring something new to the table, but instead it festers in the same sounds that have already been used and abused throughout the album.
The album is by no means perfect, but it surely does not disappoint. The Brian Jonestown Massacre wasn’t made in an attempt to attract new fans. Rather, it was made for the band’s faithful fans that will end up walking away from this album content. The album seems like an unwarranted victory lap for The Brian Jonestown Massacre, who could, if driven to it, most certainly craft a consistently great album instead of just a few noteworthy songs.