Paradise Found

If you listen to one Brian Jonestown Massacre album, let it be this one.

Don't confuse 'em with the Sex Clark Five, or the Martin Luther

Kinks -- The Brian Jonestown Massacre is the band you've been

hearing all the buzz about.

They're the ones who've put out eight albums in

four years, had over 40 members come and go, and have combined everything

from Dylan to Arthur Lee's Love to Charles Manson in their

anguished, and dead-serious harmony revolution. With Strung Out

in Heaven, BJM, having zigzagged through a grubby gamut which

featured everything from psych-pop and garage rock to acoustic

folkie-dokie with albums like Their Satanic Majesties' Second Request and

Thank God For Mental Illness, have at last reached the inevitable

mature, better-produced phase.

Reaching back through the history of rock, BJM combine 60's-style

trippy guitar effects, pulsating Hammond organs, and stoned, loose

harmony singing ("Lantern" really does sound like something off the Stones'

infamous Satanic Majesties album!) with rootsy, roughed-up

Folkways-cum-Dylan lead vocals to create... something altogether

different. Dr. Anton A. Newcombe's prolific persistence has paid off

this time, and while all their albums are worthwhile, this is

the one that'll grab your attention.

It's no pop confection, be warned. There's the occasional Byrdsy

12-stinged jangle here, as in "Going to Hell," but surprisingly

little jingle; there's sometimes a dreamy, floaty pop feel, and lyrics

about drifting clouds and seaside vistas as in "Let's Pretend It's

Summer," but generally the songs are permeated with a nagging,

jagged anguish -- not blah de dah indie angst, but

sparked, real emotion. The harmonica-laden "Wasting Away,"

for instance, complains that "The kids today got nuthin'

to say / they got nuthin' to say 'cos they taught 'em that way,"

yet far from any "we don't need no education" dark sarcasm,

the song is uplifting, because it nakedly issues

a challenge: if you are "born to be free," it asks,

"Why are you wasting away?"

Against these outbursts, the occasional light touch is welcome, as in

the Apples In Stereo-meets-The Searchers vibe of

"Jennifer," but even here, "the clouds are weeping

rain."

It all comes together best in "Got My Eye On You," which

opens with a bit of guitar-torturing right outta the

Electric Prunes songbook, against a Standells "Dirty

Water" beat that makes its over-the-top protestations

of passion oddly convincing. Inspirational Ad-Lib:

"Now looky here, woman-child, you gots to come back to

me!"

"Nothing to Lose" is a less successful melange, with

its "Me and Bobby McGee" refrain ("you aint' got

nuthin' but nuthin' to lose") -- a tepid borrowing (especially

when the next line is about being in someone else's "shoes").

And a few of the tunes seem Guided By Voicesly short and/or

partly-baked, but the lapses are few.

"Love" for instance, is a wild psychedelic organ/tambourine/fuzz gitbox

dirge. "Maybe Tomorrow," not the sweet Iveys/Badfinger almost-hit,

but a Chiltonesque gem, protests, "I'm feelin' fine / I don't

miss you at all" -- yeah, sure! "Spun" spins into a full-throttle

uproar: how'd you like to tell the girl who threw you over

that the other "boy's got shit for brains ... he don't even

know what I know?" The closer, "Wisdom," is demonic, not

play-scary, and not retro.

BJM have kept the faith, babies, and given

something back. They really do sound "Strung

Out in Heaven," and if you're ready, you can strap yourselves

in and join 'em there.