“The foundation of the pyramid is under the desert sand, and never sees a starry sky”: Anton Newcombe embodies his own quote. The creative and spiritual father of the Brian Jonestown Massacre, has for over 25 years forged a streaming genre of chromatic psychedelia which underpins and inspires the ‘pyramid’ of modern rock ‘n’ roll.
However, although a cult inspiration, sometimes criticised for his grody, lashing temperament whose history is fraught with drugs (watch Ondi Timoner’s legendary mockumentary Dig!), it has never been Anton’s intention to abuse or exploit the rockstar’s lucre or, as he coarsely puts it, to “f*ck blondes and get Porsches”. Instead, and despite the group’s rather gurning expressions and uncombed, frowsy sideburns, the BJM have proved themselves to be one of the most prolific contributors to rock of the last three decades, churning out 14 visionary records in a flurrying yet measured manner. After 2015’s two-fisted duo Musique de Film Imaginé and mini album Thingy Wingy, their latest instalment Third World Pyramid is perhaps one of their more ambient, soothing and tuneful works of late, harking back to 2008’s 41-song epic Tepid Peppermint Wonderland – A Retrospective.
Whilst being quite viscerally flickering, this LP spills fluidly throughout. The opening, rather pining and winsome track ‘Good Mourning’, is a reposeful and dirgeful threnody played with plucked acoustic guitars and elegiac flutes, with Anton’s wife Katy dolefully intoning “I’ll leave some flowers on her grave”. The album’s nine minute centrepiece ‘Assignment Song’ with its sultry, chugging rhythm is reminiscent of The Jesus and Mary Chain’s Darklands. Lush organs and ringing sounds rouse the piece, until halfway, when it starts to truly unfurl, whisking you away into a mesmerising, kaleidoscopic medium.
‘Oh Bother’ also shares this nonchalant, trudging quality. In contrast, the more uplifting ‘Government Beard’ and ‘Don’t Get Lost’ crave that classic Rolling Stones-like BJM sound. ‘Like describing colours to a blind man on acid’ also similarly reclines into a campy, loose 60s rock ‘n’ roll feel. ‘Lunar Surf Graveyard’ like The Dandy Warhols’ ‘Godless’ is more withdrawn, methodically transposing between moonlit and twangy chords whilst ‘The Sunlit Ship’ is Bowie-esque with its floating strings and throbbing synths. ‘Third World Pyramid’ itself is particularly evocative of BJM’s dashing psychedelic roots, plunging in and out of galloping drumming sections and surging guitar solos. It expresses, as the entire album does, the musical vigour and momentum which the band still possesses in abundance and their desire to create records that have the capability to positively affect.