The Brian Jonestown Massacre
The Brian Jonestown Massacre
The Brian Jonestown Massacre has been around for over three decades and is still producing quality psychedelic music. Although they’re considered icons in the neo-psychedelic sub-genre, they’re still obscure to non-musos and ‘I Heart Radio’ listeners.
Anton Newcombe started the band in San Francisco in 1990 but arguably didn’t receive true international attention until the release of their 2019 self-titled album–a nine-track offering that wowed both critics and fans alike. This is a band that did it backward. Usually, a group records a stellar LP and the demand puts them on tour to promote it. In BJM’s case, they did a world tour that caused demand for new material. If they’d not come up with something spectacular it might’ve been disastrous career-wise, but the record met all expectations and propelled them into star status.
The band, which features sole constant member Anton Newcombe on various instruments, has produced a tremendous body of work. They’ve released twenty LPs, five compilations, fourteen EPs, and twenty-two singles. Their song “Straight Up and Down” from the Take it From a Man LP served as the theme for HBO’s hit series Boardwalk Empire.
C. Elliott Photography
Their knack for catchy wordplay is evident in their LP titles; ‘Pol Pot’s Pleasure Penthouse’, ‘Methodrone’, ‘My Bloody Underground’, ’Thank God for Mental Illness’, ‘Strung Out in Heaven’, ‘Who Killed Sergeant Pepper?’,’ Bringing It All Back Home Again’, etc.
The band’s constant adaptation of new ideas, concepts, and even newer musical styles both helps and hinders them. Artistically, they’re brilliant, but brilliant art is largely ignored by the lowest common element of intelligence– the record-buying masses. Meanwhile, the ability to change and remain constant on the knife’s edge of creativity is exactly what so many popular artists admit to lacking in their careers.
BJM started out doing a blend of goth, shoegaze (mournful melodies mixed with soulful, melancholy vocals), and pop. They then evolved into a retro 60s style and made it futuristic. From there, they ventured into psychedelia for Their Satanic Majesties Second Request. In 2003, they released …And This is Our Music, which took them in a more electronic direction. In 2008, they went heavily experimental with My Bloody Underground and, in 2015, they immersed themselves in the soundtrack genre by releasing Musique De Film Imagine.
The band was also famously featured in the 2004 documentary DIG!, which took seven years to complete and focused on a running feud between Newcombe and Courtney Taylor-Taylor of the Dandy Warhols. It also illustrated Newcombe’s sometimes irrational working style and his often chaotic relationship with the members of his own band.
In February of this year, the Brian Jonestown Massacre released Your Future is Your Past.
I’m hoping this article acts as a primer for those not familiar with the history and depth of this band and entices you to explore them.