Joel Gion - Apple Bonkers

by Jim Harris Rating:10 Release Date:2014-08-18

So what to expect from the tambourine player for Brian Jonestown Massacre? The Harpo Marxist frontman who levitates and gyrates and shakes it out front and center at concerts so as to detract attention from the eclectic genius, Anton? And is a tambourine really an instrument or just a circular shell of a percussion device with floppy earrings? 

Regardless, Joel Gion has rolled out one of the stronger psych albums of the year. And yes, it does sound like a BJM album, and why shouldn’t it? It has members from BJM, including Joel himself, but you are probably thinking, still, another BJM album? 

If you were to string BJM's whole catalog out and include all the bands like The Lovetones and such who are heavily influenced by BJM, you could stretch the long-players together twice around the world and the EPs would cover Australia alone. (And I have every one of them, thank you.)

With the appropriately titled Apple Bonkers, Gion has put together an impressive collage of brilliant songs which splash through your player in a string of psychedelic, textures punctuated by droning guitars (‘Yes’), spacey, bouncy surfer riffs (‘Smile’), and obtuse 60s mod tunes channeling XTC (‘Hairy Flowers’) - and that’s just the first three songs.

What brilliantly separates Joel from just another BJM cover band, however, is Joel’s impish baritone vocal, which conjures up comparisons to everyone from Steve Wynn to early Lou Reed and Jerry Lee Lewis if you count the touches of country punk on Apple Bonkers (Chantilly lace and a pretty face…) Joel’s vocals hit the mark on every track and even work well all sassy and Britpoppish on the cleverly executed pop song ‘Two Daisies,’ a perky irreverent ditty which acts as a precursor to a heavily BJM-influenced drone track, ‘Sail On.’

And keeping with the 90s psych tradition of stealing licks from virtually any band and any song, ‘Change My Mind’ sounds eerily like the Dandy’s ‘Sleep’, the only difference being the vocals and lyrics. Apple Bonkers ends with another shoegazing gem with the upliftingly bonkers ‘Don’t Let the Fuckers Bring you Down’.

From top to bottom and everything in between, Joel Gion’s Apple Bonkers is a cause for celebration for any fan of Brian Jonestown Massacre, but is also far more than that. It is simply a delight for any fan of 21st century psychedelic rock n roll. Joel Gion has done it and done it right.  Let’s hope he keeps doing it.

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