“Everybody’s a fucking asshole. Period.” — Anton Newcombe
No, we’re not shitting you: the title of the opening track on Brian Jonestown Massacre’s new album is–take a deep breath, now–“Bring us the Head of Paul McCartney on Heather Mills’ Wooden Peg.” Anton Newcombe’s timing could not possibly be better, as Mills, who recently wished McCartney’s “three girlfriends . . . the best of luck” and explained that she merely “baptized” his lawyer when she dumped a bowl of water over the poor woman’s head in court, has joined the cemetery of drive-by celebrity at the Vegas Ms. USA pageant with the likes of Joey Fatone and Rob Schneider. Remember them? Right. Neither do we. So here’s a generous helping of “back at ya bitch!” from Mr. Anton Newcombe and friends. We couldn’t think of a more fitting messenger.
But that’s not the whole title, actually. It comes with the parenthetical “Dropping Bombs on the White House.” Yes, Mr. Newcombe’s courting many enemies, it seems–McCartney, Mills, Dubya, and, as you’ll see below, Michael Stipe, John Lennon, monkeys, and people from Iceland. But isn’t that just kind of what he does? The band’s been through enough members to fill a minor league ballpark, and Newcombe reportedly leaned into a mic at a show in Iceland recently and referred to the audience as “these fucking Albanians” when a bunch of hecklers up front pissed him off. The hecklers hoped to instigate a fight in the spirit of DIG, a documentary about BJM and The Dandy Warhols released a couple years back that has become such a bane of Newcombe’s existence that he furiously bolts interviews the second it’s mentioned. Judging from other choice titles on the album–and, for that matter, the music, which “was all recorded in one take” and includes songs sung in Icelandic–he’s out to prove once and for all that he really doesn’t give a fuck anymore–no, like, really.
About the “19 videos” he says he’s made for the new album, Newcombe tells Drowned in Sound that “they don’t specifically relate to anything. We just did them in Iceland as our way of saying we can do whatever the fuck we want.” The guy’s not kidding. Take track 10, for example: “Automatic-Faggot For the People,” a not-so-sublte nod to recently un-closeted Michael Stipe, perhaps (Ya think?!)? Then there’s “We Are the Niggers of the World”–a bleak and spare piece that sounds like Newcombe took his piano to the roof of an abandoned shoe factory and played an impromptu tune amid a massive power outage brought on by some historic blizzard, a stale cigarette stuck to his lips as he exhales the smoke of his whiskey breath into the frozen sky, wiry morning-hair flailing wildly in the wind. He sounds like he’s the last man left in the perpetual night of the world. In other words, it’s a far cry from John Lennon’s bombastic “Woman is the Nigger of the World”–just another of the album’s many bizarre allusions and daggers.
“The Ballad of Jim Jones”
But just when we’re about to get clever with our theoretical interpretations of the album title itself, My Bloody Underground–is it a nod to My Bloody Valentine? Velvet Underground Tribute? Veiled reference to the Jesus and Mary Chain’s “My Little Underground”–along comes Anton himself to concede in an interview that the word “Bloody” is just a substitute for “fucking.” Oh. Kind of the way Hot Tuna somehow derived their name from the original suggestion, “Hot Shit”–though we’re unaware of any language in which “tuna” is slang for “shit.” But we’re always eager to learn something, so feel free to expose our ignorance.
“Get the fucking Mary Chain out of it,” he barked at the two quivering bloggers at Drowned in Sound, who, by this point, were most certainly pissing themselves in terror, “We already had bands before they did . . . I don’t understand why you’re thinking My Bloody Valentine either.” Oh, surely not, Anton–it’s a total mystery! “You’re quoted as saying it,” the interviewers squeaked from beneath the rocks they’d crawled under while whispering desperate prayers for the good Lord to spare them.
Our personal favorite tracks here at Culturespill, though, are “Who Fucking Pissed in my Well” (track 3), “Monkey Powder” (track 12), and the golden great “Ljosmyndir.” Culturespill’s taking votes on that one, by the way. Ljosmyndir: Is it 1.) a sexually transmitted disease, 2.) an Icelandic breakfast food involving ground liver and head cheese, or 3.) A newfangled eastern European pastime that requires excessive nudity, Quervo, circus dwarfs and parasailing. Please vote now in the “comments” section below. “We just made them up as we were goin’ on,” Newcombe says of the MBU sessions, “took a bunch of drugs, went out with friends, created some more of the track, y’know.” Yeah, we know, Anton. Honest we do. Please don’t boil and eat us, sir. “Fuck you!” Newcombe roars as he’s asked if he regrets not signing to a major label, “Seriously. Fuck you! FUCK YOU . . . fuck. off. This conversation is over . . . ” (slams receiver down).
The man’s notorious instability is on full exhibition throughout My Bloody Underground, a spacey whirring of drugged guitars that wander to no rhythmic destination in particular, exploring instead the same neo-psychedelic abyss Newcombe’s made his stomping ground. This time, though, whatever cohesion or focus that prior masterpieces like “Anemone” or “Mansion in the Sky” offered is abandoned in favor of a peculiar aimlessness, a persuasive confirmation of Newcombe’s tale about taking “a bunch of drugs” in advance. A few tracks in, the album gives you the feeling that you’ve just dropped a year’s-worth of acid, stripped to your bare ass, and gone backstroking at night into the middle of the Atlantic, floating under the bone-white glow of the staring moon and wholly committed to the possibility that you might die. You don’t, of course, but man, it sure is a trip in the meantime!
But you’ve got to take it easy on a guy who titles his band’s greatest hits album Tepid Peppermint Wonderland. Judging from choice clips of the interview quoted above, Newcombe’s likely to respond to demands for further coherence by either removing your arms with a pair of beard trimmers or jumping off a bridge. In either case, we think you’ll agree that the results are wholly undesirable–so don’t push it, kid.
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