It’s sad that Anton Newcombe’s persona is larger than the band he fronts. The Brian Jonestown Massacre return with their eleventh studio album, Who Killed Sgt. Pepper?, yet most people are interested in how he managed to get along with his bandmates long enough to record a new album.
Newcombe’s legendary fights with his bandmates, other bands, and audience members was documented with the 2004 film, DiG!. The film cemented Newcombe’s place among the most volatile frontmen in music today. However like Rivers Cuomo and other eccentric frontmen, Newcombe has made genius music. Who Killed Sgt. Pepper? seeks to return the focus to music.
The album finds Newcombe still indulging in psychedelic-drug rock. Tracks like “White Music” and “Felt Tipped Pictures of UFOs” could be easily substituted for heroin if you need a fix. Other tracks refute the peace and love 60s feel and instead replace it with rebellion. “Let’s Go Fucking Mental” has a Velvet Underground “White Light/White Heat” with its fuzzed out bass and repetitive lyrics. “Someplace Else Unknown” sounds like a Butthole Surfers cover of Tom Waits being remixed by Nine Inch Nails.
The album’s experimental mentality makes it fairly non-cohesive. “Lets Go Fucking Mental” is the most energetic and aggressive track on the album which is followed by the album’s slowest and most mellow track “White Music”. That is what we refer to as a “train wreck” in the business. But those idiosyncrasies in the album are also what make it interesting. The album is a disjointed combination of hippie ethics, withdrawl anger, and crate-digging turntablism. The result might be the best album of Brian Jonestown Massacre’s career.