Their Satanic Majesties’ Second Request was the first of three Brian Jonestown Massacre records released in 1996, and like the other two (Take It From The Man and Thank God For Mental Illness) it wasn’t heard by a ton of people at the time, but those who heard it couldn’t really ignore what they were doing. Even before Jack White or The Strokes were making music, bands inspired by the 1960s were nothing new. However, The Brian Jonestown Massacre weren’t just copyists. Even when they were actually using someone else’s old ideas, they filtered it through their own chaotic lives, adding a sense of humor and willingness to experiment other bowl-haircutted bands lacked. Plus, they knew how to write interesting songs, which is why their albums from this era have held up a lot better than most of what was popular in alternative rock at that time.
As the title indicates, this album was inspired by The Rolling Stones’ 1967 album Their Satanic Majesties Request, which is oft-maligned (though pretty great in my opinion) because it had the band shedding most of their blues and r&b roots and exploring the outer realms of psychedelic experimentation. The spirit of that album, and Brian Jones’ overall contributions to the Stones are all over these songs, with Jonestown members playing over 40 instruments, from the normal guitars and drums, to exotic instruments like the tablas, cabasa, and what the liner notes describe as “weird fucking Chinese shit”.
Sequencing is a real strength here, with the songs and brief musical interludes bookended by a pair of tracks called “All Around You” where Jonestown mastermind Anton Newcombe plays the album’s “host”, welcoming listeners to the journey it’s meant to take you on. Song-wise 2nd Request has a lot going on, with eighteen tacks and seventy-four minutes of music to dive through. My favorite songs are the ones where the band ventures into Eastern-inspired motifs, like “Feelers”, “In India You”, and “Cause, I Lover”, all of which sound like The Beatles might have sounded in 1967 with more Lennon/Harrison than Lennon/McCartney. On the folk-rock side, guitarist Matt Hollywood – often the band’s secret weapon during their wild 1990s peak – contributes classic “No Come Down” and “Jesus”, while Mara Keagle sings “Anemone”, one of the band’s signature tunes. As great as individual songs are, the album is most effective taken in as a whole.
So why am I reviewing a twenty-year-old album that hasn’t been reissued? Well this is a new 2016 2xLP repress on 180-gram yellow vinyl that looks cool and sounds better than my old CD. So if you already own it, there’s a good reason to upgrade, and if you don’t own it, there’s never been a better time to pick it up.