The Brian Jonestown Massacre

Who Killed Sgt Pepper?

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Whatever the accretion of stories about his activities over the years, Anton Newcombe's obsessive interest has remained his music first and foremost, and by 2010 and the release of Who Killed Sgt. Pepper?, Newcombe and a rotating cast of collaborators showed that his spark had not only continued but found new areas of expression. That may seem odd in part given that the album is retrospective in other areas -- besides a punning title along the lines of Their Satanic Majesties' Second Request, Who Killed Sgt. Pepper? also features the full return of Matt Hollywood as a regular bandmate, having been one of the original members at the start of the group nearly 20 years back. What makes the album the most intriguing, though, is how Newcombe and company have settled into an almost decentered approach. There's little sense throughout that a key singing or lyrical voice is the core. Instead, rhythms and slow-burning electronic/rock grooves (with Spacemen 3/Spiritualized veteran Will Carruthers doing excellent work on bass throughout) provide the strongest anchor, while what vocal performances exist are often performed by someone other than Newcombe. On songs like "Let's Go Fucking Mental" and "Feel It," it's the steady, trance-like punch of the arrangements that holds sway, vocal interjections functioning more as polite variations on James Brown-style exhortations. Meanwhile, "This Is the One Thing We Did Not Want to Have Happen" is one of the more imaginative Joy Division reinterpretations in a while, taking the opening drums from "She's Lost Control" and opening lyrics from "I Remember Nothing" to create a wholly new piece. If anything, the album almost feels like a spiritual sequel to their full-length debut, Methodrone, with its similarly lengthy tracks and more studio-focused approach rather than live rock & roll bash and crash, but where that album drowned a bit in the end, Who Killed Sgt. Pepper? finds its creators at a remarkable new high.

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