CD: The Brian Jonestown Massacre - The Brian Jonestown Massacre: Anton Newcombe is a changed man. Fo

From The Arts Desk

If you're familiar with The Brian Jonestown Massacre, chances are it's from the 2004 Sundance-winning rockumentary, Dig!. The film took a wry look at the Californian band's intense rivalry with The Dandy Warhols. More, though, it was an extended character-study of charismatic, drug-frazzled BJM frontman Anton Newcombe – a man once described as consuming narcotics so ferociously, it was like an anteater eating ants. It was generally assumed Newcombe would soon be sucked into the vortex of his fevered mind. Instead, he got sober and stayed that way.

The change is certainly remarkable. Newcombe now lives Berlin where he divides his time between BJM work and producing other bands (including The Charlatans). He's also a keen gardener, dad, and husband. Black-rimmed glasses now sit under his long tousled hair and his famous sideburns have now turned almost white. He looks like he could be Neil Young's homely cousin.

It was by embracing family life, apparently, that Newcombe stopped wanting to "fly through the universe on some manic trip." Fortunately, though, when it comes to his music, that's exactly what he's still doing. The Brian Jonestown Massacre is the band's 18th album in 24 years and, as usual, it's a mind-bending blend of psychedelic indie-rock and shoegaze.

Unsurprisingly, then, the tracks tend to blend into a great cosmic soup. That's no bad thing. It reminds you a little of Hawkwind. Both bands also produce tons of material whose loose sound belies great craftsmanship. And both possess a working ethos that's almost folky. I mean, BJM's second most famous member, Joel Gion, is even a tambourine player. The Brian Jonestown Massacre is a fine album on many levels, but the perhaps best thing about it is its ability to get you out of your mind without chemical assistance. "We Never Had A Chance" feels like coming up for air while "My Mind is Filled with Stuff" is superbly trippy. Granted, there's nothing here as shamanic as Their Satanic Majesties' Second Request, but the other-wordly atmosphere is still a great antidote to the modern world. All in, this is a wonderful reminder of a much-overlooked band.

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