There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
Nineties Bay Area psychedelians the Brian Jonestown Massacre have worked overtime to create a mythos that fits their sound of big aspirationsto keep company with Vox-strumming legends like Spacemen 3, the Velvet Underground, and the Stones of Their Satanic Majesty’s Request. Controversy has swirled around BJM like a mini-tornado: The band’s first gig was cut short when a flying cymbal knocked out a member of the audience; singer-instrumentalist Anton Newcombe has attacked members of the group and threatened its manager; and gigs sometimes end in a sea of broken pint glasses. BJM’s hype hasn’t traveled well; their reputation for being talentless retro hacks who miss as many gigs as they make precedes them. So it’s a surprise that Strung Out in Heaven is a decent kind of a head trip. “Nothing to Lose” would fit comfortably on your tattered Vaselines album, and “Going to Hell” could have been a B-side for the Seeds. “Love” is a suitable fix if you’re missing Perfect Prescription. “Dawn” pulls out some country-via-the-Byrds guitar work that might silence some naysayers, and “I’ve Been Waiting” sounds like deranged British folk pop. BJM are trying to recapture the simplicity and grandeur of ’60s British rock, especially the dangerous promise of the Stones. At points, yes, they are visceral, unstable, messed-up people in an altered reality. While the Spacemen were caught up in the “Sound of Confusion” and drug-induced explorations, BJM are weathered by anger and chaos. Strung Out isn’t heaven. For all its attitude and pose, the Massacre never authenticate: Their songs are too easily read as fan letters to the real greats. And heaven, at this distance, seems like a bit of a drag.John Dugan