Brian Jonestown Massacre: Strung Out In Heaven (1998)

The colorfully-named Brian Jonestown Massacre are a long-running indie act, largely the work of frontman Anton Newcombe and a revolving cast of musicians. Californian Newcombe, the epitome of the tortured artist (documented in the excellent documentary Dig!, which focuses on the Massacre and peer/rival band the Dandy Warhols), frequently shifts musical styles, a blend of shoegaze and psychedelia and garage band madness and straight indie guitar rock, making it tough for me to land on a favorite album. (The 2004 compilation Tepid Peppermint Wonderland is a pretty all-inclusive collection of highlights from the first half of the band's run, and probably enough BJM for 99% of fans.)

And while I like the debut, Methodone, a fine example of American shoegaze, Strung Out in Heaven is among the band's more consistently enjoyable efforts. There's still a bit of buzz and distortion, but for the most part it's cleaner, often semi-acoustic and folky, but with a nice garage band bite to it.

Opener "Going To Hell" is a catchy, melodic tune that bridges Britpop and Dylan, with some surprisingly jangly guitars backed by insistent late 60s organ vibes. "Wasting Away" retains that Dylanesque vibe, restrained folk-tinged rock, complete with a freakin' harmonica! "Got My Eye On You" is another personal fave, rocking that familiar "Sister Ray"/"Roadrunner" riff (yeah, it's on my mix of similar-sounding songs) with a great 60s garage band groove, slowed down and ingratiating. And "Jennifer" is a pleasantly shambling ditty, playfully channeling Syd Barrett; while "Dawn" manages to sound similarly ragged and casual yet surprisingly bubbly.

Beyond those tunes, it's largely a quiet and moody affair, working the more somber sounds of post-Summer of Love psychedelia and dream pop; think Mazzy Star with opiates instead of psychedelics. Which may make it less riveting than the BJM can be when Newcombe cranks up the guitars, but it's great for kicking back on a cloudy day.

Here's a video for "Going To Hell":
...and an audio rip of "Wasting Away":