Celebrated for their dynamism and prolificacy, the Brian Jonestown Massacre (BJM) have embarked on a tour of their recently released eighteenth studio album, dropping in on a sold out Motion on the way.
Their voluminous collection encompasses, perhaps unsurprisingly, an array of experimental stylistic migrations. BJM have shaken off the “60s’ revivalists” tag by exploring the roots of genres ranging from garage-rock, to folk, through to electronica. Though their latest album, ‘Something Else’, heralds a return to earlier releases. Riddled with chiming strokes of abstract impressionism and characteristically plaintive vocals, it seems BJM have stuck to what they know on this one. With a lineup that has constantly re-evolved since the band’s genesis in the mid-90s’, founding member Anton Newcombe has remained the lone constant on this journey of discovery through psychedelia. An enigmatic character, whose psych-rock ingenuity and whimsical demeanor have drawn comparisons to a contemporary Syd Barrett, Newcombe was the point of focus for the horde of die-hard BJM fans in attendance.
Until the fabled Joel Gion stepped on stage, unashamedly late. Armed with only a tambourine and an admirable pair of mutton chops, he claimed centre-stage beside his fellow band members as they kicked off steadily with ‘We Never Had a Chance’. With Newcombe content to occupy the shadows stage-left, the initial appraisals were caught by Gion’s majestic tambourine-playing. Pensively posed, each flash of the hand ricocheted an air of idiosyncratic nonchalance to accompany the unhurried opening track.
The crowd readily offered themselves as Newcombe and co. upped the ante with the rumbustious ‘Vad Hände Med Dem’. Progressing through their latest tracks – and the occasional old-timer thrown in – Newcombe’s famed precision shone through, with extended pauses between tracks to tune and re-tune. Employed to do so were a couple of fresh-faced roadies clearly eager to impress. Presumably aware of Newcombe’s notorious volatility, they spent the duration of the show sheepishly glancing at their messiah while meticulously tending to the various instruments that laid delicately in the shadows.
Evening highlights came through airtight renditions of the carefully crafted ‘Pish’, before possibly the archetypal BJM track, ‘Anemone’. A sold out Motion murmured along to its droning chorus, fully immersed in the hypnotic layers of rolling guitars and percussion. The six-piece proceeded to embark on a guided tour of their illustrious arsenal, reviving tracks from albums ‘Take It From The Man’ and ‘Bravery Repetition and Noise’, amongst others. Despite the diversity of their collection, BJM managed to adopt a set-list that adroitly straddled the divide between old and new, drifting seamlessly between albums.
BJM gigs are the stuff of legend, as documented in the cult-classic documentary ‘Dig!’. While it appears that Newcombe has finally quenched his thirst for punching his band members on stage, the energy and precision that has won them so many plaudits remain. Under Newcombe’s command, BJM operated in rigorous harmony as they returned to their latest collection, with unreleased track ‘What Can I Say?’.
A psychedelic sonic explosion followed through penultimate track, ‘Yeah Yeah’. With six guitars present at this stage – the roadies called upon to help out – BJM foisted a trance-like state onto all those present. Attended by an impressive visual display, seemingly every sense was assembled as the sprawling crescendo reached its apex, unleashing an all-encompassing kaleidoscopic storm. After ending proceedings with a marching rendition of ‘A Word’, the sextet exited the stage amid cries for an encore. In typical Newcombe fashion, they refused to conform and left punters to file out in an existentialist daze. BJM have truly mastered their craft, and with another album set to be released this year (their NINETEENTH), be sure not to miss them next time around.