The Brian Jonestown Massacre are well-known for their '60s revivalist style of psychedelic rock, but what they have to offer with 'We Are the Radio' is something a little different. Is it a sign of evolution for the band or simply a one-off experiment with a new sound? With Anton Newcombe, it's hard to say; he has quite the knack to do the unexpected.
Part of what makes this mini-album/EP sound so different from the rest of the band's output is the skeleton crew used to record it. On vocals, guitar, bass, and synths is Anton, also on vocals is Sarabeth Tucek who wrote "Seer" and co-wrote "Time Is Honey" with Anton, and Dan Allaire is on drums. If that's not a skeleton crew then I don't know what is! Sarabeth's vocals dominate this record as she takes lead on 75% of the singing duties (she sings lead on "Never Become Emotionally Attached to Man, Woman, Beast or Child;" "Seer;" and "Time Is Honey"), while Anton sings on only one song, "God Is My Girlfriend." My favorite track, "Teleflow 5 vs. Amplification," is purely instrumental and probably the trippiest of the 5 songs.
I guess this is the part where I admit I'm not a lifelong fan of the band but a bit of a newcomer. Having been a fan of the Dandy Warhols since 2003, I learned about the BJM about a year or so ago when I watched the documentary "DiG!" and became rather intrigued by the band. I'm always listening to new music and have found my tastes gradually drifting more and more into earlier decades. Lately, the music of the '60s has me highly intrigued, and I find it obvious Anton has a great deal of love for the music and sound of that decade.
The BJM have been called over and over again a '60s revivalist band, and I would agree with that sentiment. Anton has spent his career revitalizing not just the music but the culture of what was '60s psychedelic rock. Aside from this record, I've listened to 'Tepid Peppermint Wonderland: A Retrospective' (the 2004 edition) and 'The Singles Collection (1992 - 2011)', and I feel like those two albums/compilations have given me an understanding of the band's musical direction. For the most part, I feel like 'We Are the Radio' continues that tradition, though it has perhaps a more modern feel to it. All of the songs on this record are still deeply rooted in the '60s, but the music sounds and feels tighter and more polished than much of what I've heard. Except for "Teleflow 5 vs. Amplification," which sounds downright futuristic but oh! so cool in comparison.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that 'We Are the Radio' stays true to the core of the BJM while taking something of a new direction in terms of the band's sound. Long-time and die-hard fans will probably be upset by this change in the band's sound, but some of the world's greatest bands have been known to experiment with their music style from time to time. The '60s, for one reason or another, were known as a time of experimentation, so a change or shift for the BJM shouldn't come as a big surprise. Bottom line: this record rocks just as hard as it grooves.