GIGsoup’s Adam Stevenson revisits The Brian Jonestown Massacre ‘Take It From The Man’ – 20 years after it’s original release
Perhaps the best of their career, “Take it From the Man!” – the first of three full length albums released by San Fran’s The BJM in 1996 – is the closest they ever got to producing a hit quality record. Once again showcasing their ability to slip between genres and style with ease, “TIFTM” captures the rough and rattle of garage rock and roll made famous by The Rolling Stones and The Velvet Underground during the mid-60s. Its raw and unpolished sound is abrasive but as addictive as the drugs the band consumed throughout its making.
From the word go, Anton and Co. highlight the sheer influence that Jagger, Richards and their namesake had on the creative process and with “Vacuum Boots”, they kick in with all the grit and swagger of “Paint It Black”. It’s chaotic, aggressive and at times feels like it’s been hastily cobbled together in a drug fuelled haze but in a way only befitting of R&B infused rock and roll utilised by their main influence.
Matt Hollywood’s “Oh Lord” is like a jam session that builds, going from strength to strength, before a blistering finish of fast paced juiced up electric guitars and simple drum beats pulsating with Joel’s added tambourine, culminates in an electric cluster of raw indie rock. It’s the typical BJM master track that encapsulates everything from The Animals and The Yardbirds to Them and The Who while still seeming completely new.
Taking the album in a different, more soothing direction, “(David Bowie I Love You) Since I was Six” pays homage to yet another great rock icon with a haunting melody that feels like it wouldn’t be out of place with anything on “Hunky Dory”. Anton’s gentle vocals and the lounge music style set it apart from the rest and feels like more like an old classic than a 90s revivalist’s attempt.
In an album that wears its influences on its sleeves and hides nothing, Matt Hollywood’s “B.S.A” waltzes in like T-Rex’s “Mambo Sun” while dipping into “Sympathy For The Devil” territory. It’s a slow burner lead by its heavily distorted bass but it’s magnetic.
With touches of The Pixies’ melancholic stylings and new wave punk, “Cabin Fever” is the only track to feel that little bit fresher and closer to the scene of their times. It’s eerie and bitter-sweet but lyrically it’s one of the band’s best efforts.
In a tongue-in-cheek move, “Straight Up And Down” appears twice on the album, the latter version – an extended slower tempo recording – might not add much to the album but it doesn’t take anything away either. It’s a fitting closer as it brings the album full circle, reverting back to their main idols once again with the Rolling Stones’ and The Beatles’ influences appearing towards the end.
“Take It From The Man” is a hugely overlooked album and the perfect example of the BJM’s ability to pull in the stuff the greats did so well and re-package it as something eerily similar yet different, something of their own. It’s not only one of the best albums of the 90s but perhaps one of the last of the great rock and roll albums.
This Brian Jonestown Massacre article was written by Adam Stevenson, a GIGsoup contributor