The Brian Jonestown Massacre: Revelation (A Records)

Lucky album number 13, the storied US psych innovators latest is one of their best

Released May 19th, 2014 via A Records / By Richard Lewis
The Brian Jonestown Massacre: Revelation (A Records) Over a quarter of a century since their founding and ten years since classic documentary Dig! throughout their wayward course The Brian Jonestown Massacre have seen their profile grow each passing year and now stand as inspiration to a new legion of like-minded psychedelic bands.

The first album by the band to have been entirely recorded in BJM leader Anton Newcombe’s Berlin studio, Revelation, the band's thirteenth LP is one of the band’s most tightly focussed. With the ranks featuring guitarist/vocalist Matt Hollywood, percussionist Joel Gion and founder member Ricky Maymi, the group have seldom sounded so well-drilled.

Thirteen exacting slivers of the band’s spaced out drone rock, here the pendulum swings towards the band’s poppier side, Newcombe’s vocals pushed high in the mix, showcasing the melodies ever-present in the band’s rich layers. Pop culture references abound in the brilliantly observed cover art, transposing an unknown kid over an upside down, purple-tinted version of the Symbionese Liberation Army logo instantly recognisable in its original form with kidnap victim/gun toting radical/media magnate heiress Patty Hearst in its place.

Returning to the subject of bands drawing inspiration from the BJM, bracing opener ‘Vad hands med dem’ is sung by Joachim Alhund, vocalist for the currently feted Swedish psych Les Big Byrd current signings to the BJMs A Records label. Setting the bar high, the following dozen tracks maintain the standard, the planet sized acoustic rumble of ‘What You Isn’t’, the late 1960s blues guitar riffs of ‘Memory Camp’ and ‘Days, Weeks and Moths’ underscored by deep-pile vocal harmonies showcasing the group’s mastery of slow burning grooves,

Expansive instrumental ‘Duck and Cover’, the (completely futile) warning given to citizens in the 1950s terrified about impending nuclear attack in government information films sets the scene for the LPs highpoint. ‘Food for Clouds’, comprising three separate riffs that work their way sinuously around each other from its opening choppy staccato chords, the synthesized horns and simple guitar riff combine to produce an absolute gem that could conceivably be extended to twice its running time onstage.

The gently unsettling ‘Second Sighting’ veers off into folk territory, a slowly revolving acoustic guitar incantation plaited with spiralling flute accompaniment that soundtracks the sun rising over the third morning of Woodstock. In contrast the pulsatant ‘Memorymix’ evokes memories of Happy Mondays' live rendition of ‘Wrote for Luck’ while the hypnotic ‘Fist Full of Bees’ is the longest psych meditation/mantra on the album.

Elsewhere ‘Nightbird’ sidling along on thrumming acoustic guitars and string arrangement represents another highpoint, breaking midway through for a guitar solo that takes the song into Mazzy Star territory. ‘Xibalba’ meanwhile is the nearest cut to the sound of 1990s era BJM, built on a chassis of booming semi acoustic riff, slightly submerged vocal and swirling Eastern instrumentation. Locating a sweet spot drone rock and pastoral folk closing track ‘Goodbye (Butterfly)’ heads for the run out groove with backing vocals not entirely dissimilar to the ‘whoo whoos’ heard on Sympathy for the Devil.

And as for the Revelation promised in the title? Maybe that a band can be delivering albums this strong thirteen albums into their career stands as revelatory in itself.