Review by: Jack Foley | Rating:
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Director Interview UK Exclusive;
Film Notes; Original Theatrical Trailer; Tartan Trailer Reel;
THE music industry is rife with tales of talented bands who hit
the self destruct button at every opportunity, yet I doubt any
did so more spectacularly than The Brian Jonestown Massacre.
Headed by the outrageously talented yet completely unstable Anton
Newcombe, the band was often credited with being the most naturally
gifted and exciting prospect this side of The Beatles and The
Thanks to Newcombe's increasingly unstable mental state, however,
the BJM, as they became known, imploded amid a tidal wave of drug
abuse, alcohol and fighting.
In Ondi Timoner's compelling documentary, DIG!, their rise and
fall unfolds in tandem with the rise and rise of their biggest
friends and rivals, The Dandy Warhols, the band best-known for
hits such as Not If You Were The Last Junkie On Earth and Bohemian
Dandy's lead singer, Courtney Taylor, serves as narrator, describing
Newcombe as his biggest inspiration and his worst regret.
The ensuing tale of rock and roll excess is one of the most vibrant,
compelling and hysterically funny you are likely to see, driven
by the great music of both bands and the mind-blowing ineptitude
of the BJMs.
Beginning in the mid-90s, DIG! picks up as Newcombe sets out
on a mission to revolutionise the music industry, setting himself
up as some sort of musical Messiah who will rid the industry of
Determined to let his music do the talking, Newcombe wins plenty
of friends - and the early support of the Dandys - only to have
his inner demons pull the rug out from under him any time he comes
close to success.
Hence, while the Dandys went on to record a successful album
and shoot $400,000 videos with celebrated photographer, David
LaChapelle, the BJMs continually flirted with success only to
be let down by the antics of Newcombe.
There is something of a cruel fun
to be had, therefore, in watching the fallout that results, as
the BJMs get up to all sorts of antics, including playing at the
Communist Party headquarters in Cleveland for 10 straight hours
and fighting with each other on-stage at an industry gig set up
for them at The Viper Room.
A US tour is similarly ill-fated, with Newcombe threatening to
walk home to California from Chicago after one argument with his
manager, and then being stopped by some redneck police in the
Deep South while clearly suffering from the effects of drugs.
Further laughs are generated in watching the outrageous antics
of fellow band member, Joel Gion (the Bez of his generation),
who exists in a perpetually stoned state, and who was even sent
to clinch a record deal in Newcombe's place.
Yet the fun is offset by a certain tragedy given Newcombe's obvious
talent, and the knowledge that much of his torment was born out
of a difficult childhood, during which he was abandoned by his
schizophrenic, alcoholic father and institutionalized after a
series of teenage arrests.
Courtney Taylor, too, is obviously torn-up by Newcombe's tale,
hailing him as a genius throughout, yet frequently stung by the
bitter rivalry and Newcombe's capacity for self-destruction.
He aspires to his friend's prolific talent but is unable to let
himself go in the same way, no matter how great the frustrations
of playing the industry game.
By the time the Dandys had delivered their latest album, Welcome
To The Monkeyhouse, the BJMs had all but faded, with Newcombe
hopelessly addicted to heroin and continually thwarted by his
One of the last shots of Newcombe sees him being arrested by
police after he has kicked an abusive concert-goer in the head
for daring to suggest he was having sexual relations with his
Although still singing and touring, Newcombe has since spoken
out on the band's website against his vilification in DIG!, insisting
that in no way does he support the film.
It's typical of the man given the newfound success the documentary
looks set to bring him.
For no matter how he appears - and much of the footage speaks
for itself - it does have the ability to bring a whole new wave
of listeners to the BJM and is likely to have many viewers rushing
to their nearest record shop to buy one of their records.
I'm already a fan of the Dandy Warhols, but I have since added
the Brian Jonestown Massacre to my record collection.