- by Sean Hewson Rating:8 Release Date:2016-10-28 Label: A Recordings
Third World Pyramid is The Brian Jonestown Massacre's 15th album. In their 26 year career they have tackled most forms of psychedelic music - from Garage Rock to Shoegaze - but on their more recent albums Anton Newcombe and the band have found a consistency that continues on this album. They have always been music enthusiasts but it is often hard for music enthusiasts to stay focused on one sound. It's no bad thing, but they tend to wind up with a back catalogue like Julian Cope where every whim is followed with total commitment and enthusiasm. However, as time has gone on Newcombe has become more adept at combining all his obsessions into a Psychedelic Drone-Pop soup. The BJM sound is a combination of Loveless, Revolver and Dig Your Own Hole with Newcombe's simple song-writing and love of World Music. Each song sounds like a band performance but also has a whole other presence that has come straight out of a laptop as Newcombe adds strings and brass, often playing little Middle Eastern-sounding melodies.
Third World Pyramid actually wrong-foots you at first by starting out with a Kate Lane sung song called Good Mourning that sounds like Pearls Before Swine. Government Beard is more recognisable as the sound of the recent BJM - a simple Drone Pop chord progression with little orchestral and Middle Eastern touches in the arrangement. They have clearly now hit their stride as Don't Get Lost is more of the same but this time a little slower and with more brass. Assignment Song is almost ten minutes long, a mainly acoustic track that softly bubbles with tremolo and uses the simplest of chord progressions. The layering here is like My Bloody Valentine in concept but not in execution. There are more Middle Eastern melodies in the trumpet line on the instrumental Oh Bother, whilst Third World Pyramid is more frantic but with a slower MBV-like male/female vocal part. Like Describing Colors To A Blind Man On Acid has a classic BJM combination of rhythm and lead guitars and is quite 80s indie. The second instrumental, Lunar Surf Graveyard, features - as the title indicates - spooky, surf guitar but also with a bit of Folk-Rock. The album finishes with The Sun Ship which feels like a BJM anthem.
As the distractions of the band's early years have disappeared, Anton Newcombe's vision has become clearer. He has also kept his boundless energy and a naturally out-there way of thinking that makes his interviews impossible to follow. He has earned the right to stand alongside his heroes such as Kevin Shields as a person with a sound in his head that he knows how to put on record. The combination of laptop programming and band performance really works for the BJM. He has also earned the right to totally rip off the Spacemen 3's logo on the album cover and get away with it (Will Carruthers has been in both bands). The modern Brian Jonestown Massacre are as dependable as they used to be chaotic and they are making their best albums now.
Good review Sean. A little more subdued than normal but I'm still lovin it' all the same. I agree about Sun Ship being anthemic. Can't wait to hear that in concert. I just get locked into that gauzy lurid coloured soup you talk about.
laptop = mellotron