Strung Out In Heaven

Brian Jonestown Massacre

TVT Records, 1998

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


When I first heard of the San Francisco-based group Brian Jonestown Massacre, I imagined the group's sound to be a rather wild, even punkish, form of rock. Just the name of the Anton Newcombe-led group conjured up images of uncontrolled fury - why else merge the name of the late Rolling Stones guitarist with one of the worst mass suicides ever seen?

Boy, imagine my surprise when I first popped this disc in the player. The 13 songs on their latest release, Strung Out In Heaven, were hardly the uncontrolled panic I expected. If anything, Newcombe and this loosely-grouped collaborative of musicians have taken the sound of the my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Let It Bleed-era Stones and brought it into 1998... damn.

Oh, it's not that the music contained on this disc is terrible; Brian Jonestown Massacre does capture the sound and essence of the music rather well. Tracks like "Going To Hell," "Wasting Away" and "Love" all capture the attention of the listener in a very positive manner. The contributions from bandmates Matt Hollywood, Jeffrey Davies, Joel Gion and Dean Taylor all positively contribute to this project.

So where can I be disappointed in Strung Out In Heaven? Two areas, really. First, while the capturing of the Stones-like sound is admirable (especially putting an alternative spin on it), Newcombe and crew rarely deviate from that formula on this album, making many of the songs blur together in an almost unrecognizable mish-mash. Make sure you're watching the CD player, or you might have a hard time keeping track of when "Spun" ends and "I've Been Waiting" begins.

Second, in their effort to capture an older sound on this album, it almost feels like Brian Jonestown Massacre have given up their own individuality - something I don't think was the original intention. Newcombe's mirror of the '60s sound, down to the vocal sneer a la Mick Jagger, makes this feel more like a collection of Stones outtakes than a modern-day band's most recent effort. Had the band injected a little more of their own sound to this project, I think things would have been radically different for the better.

Does this mean that there is no originality on this album? I didn't say that; you can hear glimpses of where the band members inject their own flavor into the mix. All I am suggesting is that more of that flavor should have been included on this album to give it its own unique style, not just a '60s-sounding effort that happens to be alternative rock.

Again, it's not that Strung Out In Heaven is a bad album; no, it's an enjoyable listen that should attract fans of a few different genres. But in this case, instead of looking backwards into the future, Newcombe and crew would have been better suited keeping the car out of "reverse".

Rating: C+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 1998 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of TVT Records, and is used for informational purposes only.