CD / LP / DL
Out: 28 / 10 / 16
Over twenty years since Anton Newcombe first came to prominence with his prolific volatility, the mercurial musician is back with one of his finest, and most consistent, records to date. Sam Lambeth is digging what he hears.
Twenty years ago, The Brian Jonestown Massacre embarked on twelve of their most fierce, but fertile, periods – 1996 saw the release of three incredibly consistent albums, and resulted in them being on the cusp of international stardom. While that major-label lucre never materialised, Anton Newcombe certainly won the war – two decades on, The BJM are one of rock music’s most acclaimed outfits, adored by ageing alternatives and youthful nihilists alike. After 2015’s two-fisted collection of Musique de Film Imaginé and Mini-Album Thingy Wingy, the band’s fifteenth album proper is one of their most appealing and tuneful opuses in a long time.
‘Good Mourning’ lives up to its downbeat title, an almost Gainsbourgian slice of ominous boy-girl harmonies, wandering acoustic arpeggios and a lush soundscape. Similarly, ‘Lunar Surf Graveyard’ is built around chunky, foreboding fretwork and a wilting guitar motif. It’s the more upbeat moments that are the most appealing, however – the double salvo of ‘Government Beard’ and ‘Don’t Get Lost’ are built around shimmering acoustics, uplifting melodies and Newcombe’s echo-addled vocals. Even better is the gloriously titled ‘Like Describing Colours to a Blind Man On Acid’, which may shamelessly pilfer the same jaunty beats of ‘This Is Why You Love Me’, but redecorates in a modern, magnificent way.
There’s room for experimentation, too, but Third World Pyramid is a commendably lean and tight collection – even the nine-minute ‘Assignment Song’ feels well-oiled and structured rather than self-indulgent, while the instrumental ‘Oh Bother’ is built on a bed of quivering organ, strident horns and a taut guitar strum.
Another year, another BJM album, but Newcombe’s latest collection is a brilliant smorgasboard of the songsmith’s eclectic talents, while still remaining on a consistent curve. After so many albums, EPs and broken sitars, that’s high praise indeed.