Friday, November 28, 2014

DB's Song of the Day (day 332): "HERE IT COMES" (2003) The Brian Jonestown Massacre

This post is showing up late, call it holiday glut. So why not go with a song from a band where I came late to the party. The Brian Jonestown Massacre formed its rep in the mid-to-late Nineties, particularly with an album like Their Satanic Majesties Second Request (1996) which built on “rip-offs” or “pastiches” of prominent Brit Invasion bands of the mid-Sixties. The singer and main songwriter, who more or less is The BJM these days, Anton Newcombe, seems to have fixated early on the sound of early psychedelia and the morph of white R&B toward drug “scene” music that took place in landmark albums like Between the Buttons (1967) and the first VU album that same year, and Donovan’s druggier moments, 1966-67, along with, of course, the mind-bending Beatles tunes of 1965-66.

And all that stuff is mother’s milk to me. So I was primed to dig BJM when Jim, a former student, was insistent that I needed to know this stuff. He gave me a comp of Anton gems up to that point (2003), and together we saw the man and his crew live—for free—in the back of BAR in New Haven in spring of 2004. By then Dig!, the film about BJM’s feud with The Dandy Warhols (perhaps an even cleverer name than the Brian Jonestown Massacre) was out and Newcombe seemed to be attracting some media buzz. So, yeah, I was a late-comer, but I really liked And This is Our Music with its use of drone and the kind of organ-playing accents of glum strumming I thought ended forever c. 1970. And the show? It was like death by Rickenbacker. I think there were six of them total. What a way to go.

Newcombe brought it all back home in a big way, not least on today’s song. “Here It Comes” doesn’t really need much in the way of a hook or even in the way of a chorus. All it needs to fill me with a kind of melancholic ecstasy is that little surge when Newcombe’s vocal draws out “oh oh oh, here it co-omes.” Because what seems to be “coming” at that moment is the entire history of psychedelic rock and its evolution into something even more psychosis-ridden in these “loathsome latter years.” Newcombe, to give him all due credit, is both heartfelt and a little tongue-in-cheek about the music he is aping so effectively. I say “heartfelt” because I believe he believes that music should never have stopped sounding this way. The bands who first created such sounds should’ve stayed there and not evolved into whatever came after. And I say “tongue-in-cheek” because I have to believe he’s self-conscious enough to know that this particular aesthetic is well beyond a “rearguard action.” More than flying a freak flag, the guy is tending a wasted flame. Unless of course you think he’s beating a dead horse.

I’ll never say so. That horse never became thoroughly moribund for yours truly, and I got a big kick from Newcombe and company’s efforts to keep the time when Brian Jones walked the earth contemporary with the 21st century. It’s a thankless task, mostly, but dammit, someone’s got to do it.

The lyrics are coy too, giving us just enough to feel the rebel without a contract sitch in all its dragging glory: “Old mom and dad / Couldn’t believe / They made me so mad / I just had to leave.” If that doesn’t give you the main points of the eternal generational battle, then what more do you need?  Or how about “Lying in bed / Talking to you / The things that you said / Well, none of its true.” There we have the skewering of the pillow talk heart-to-heart where our hero must beg to differ. Or what about the middle verse: “Went to the Man / Took my decree / Said ‘please understand / I’ve got be me, sir.’” Might as well be Mick’n’Keith’n’Brian facing the drug bust blues.

Ah, those were the days. Anton Newcombe—born in 1967—somehow remembers, even if you don’t.

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