Monday, June 23, 2014

REVIEW: The Brian Jonestown Massacre - Revelation

I suppose nearly all of you know the story of The Brian Jonestown Massacre, who played their first show in San Francisco in 1988 and have now released Revelation, their 14th LP,  their legacy documented in the widely viewed and critically acclaimed documentary Dig!.

Actually however, Dig! paints a fairly narrow and almost cartoonish picture that hardly does the remarkable output and quality of The Brian Jonestown Massacre justice. Which is not to say that Anton Newcombe didn't at times do his best to play into the image of an erratic, drug-addicted madman. However, Newcombe gets the last laugh here - go back to the Alternative Rock charts of 1996 and BJM's Take It From The Man era when the band caught America's attention and you'll discover that nearly every other band on those charts is no longer around, while BJM continue to not only exist but create work of consequence.
Now sober for 4 years, married, with a child, and living peacefully in Berlin where he has his own studio and has started his own record company (A Recordings Ltd.), Newcombe appears to be in a good place and the music on Revelation reflects that.

The 13 songs on Revelation refine though do not reinvent the terrific psychedelia and highly compelling rock'n'roll that BJM has churned out for 20+ years now. Overall, the songs reflect a beauty and peacefulness that one might not associate with The Brian Jonestown Massacre, with a nearly cinematic expanse, compelling trance-like rhythms and, as always, great guitar sounds.  The band's layered guitar approach is greatly aided by the relatively recent return to the fold of both Matt Hollywood and Ricky Maymi, BJM's revolving door membership swinging in the right way these days.    

Let's listen to "What You Isn't":
My favorite track here is the opening one, "Vad Hande Med Dem", sung in Swedish by guest Joachim Alhund from Les Big Byrds, a band on Newcombe's new label A Recordings Ltd. The track combines some classic BJM psych rock guitar sounds with driving rhythm tracks, coming off to me like what the Velvet Underground or Luna might sound like if they were a young band just starting out in 2014. Fantastic video too:

Longtime BJM fans will especially enjoy the kick ass rock'n'roll of "Xibaldi", followed by the album's trance rock closer, "Goodbye (Butterfly)":
Long live The Brian Jonestown Massacre. 

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