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Brian Jonestown Massacre
Credit: Anton Newcombe: Tristan Fewings / Camera Press / Retna

What band impresses on stage (but not on record)?

Who’s the best artist to see live who never released a decent album? —Lucas Rolland

Great — and difficult to answer — question. My first thought was to go with Barry Manilow: Not long ago, I realized it was time I finally saw the rooster-haired schmaltz icon in concert. And even though I couldn’t imagine myself ever plowing through one of his albums, he delivered a show far more entertaining and emotional than I had any right to expect. (And no, I’m not being ironic.). But in terms of a more recent — and more highly touted — act, I’d have to go with indie-rock legends the Brian Jonestown Massacre. I find their records to be largely tedious — each crammed with what sound like half-finished songs built around chord changes lifted from various, hard-to-place ’60s rock psychedelia. But onstage, especially at Austin’s South By Southwest conference a year or two back, their wall-of-acid-rock-sound assault, combined with leader and supposed genius Anton Newcombe’s stern, dictatorial stage presence, was hard to deny. If Manilow seem like the last of a dying breed in his way, so did the BJM — they captured the rise (and fall) of the guitar-rock era, and, for an hour or so at least, they made it live again.

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