Album Review: Brian Jonestown Massacre – Third World Pyramid

The Brian Jonestown Massacre have always been a band that seek to escape the reality they are confined by. Conjuring musical vessels, the ever changing ensemble mystify the boundaries of existence, joining the hands of emotion and experience in a tantric like fashion on a quest to induce and alter states of mind. As album number 15 rolls around, the cosmos is still the destination for Anton Newcombe and co.

Third World Pyramid; it’s still unmistakably The BJM, it’s draped in the ethereal creativity Newcombe is renowned for, it does everything you’d expect from a Jonestown album, and yet somehow, it feels distant, lonely almost in places. Rather than demanding attention, Third World Pyramid drifts around the conscience, pondering instead of proclaiming. This is not to say it lacks presence; unlike previous efforts that grip you tightly be the hand, it enigmatically asks for permission to take you on its trip, meandering through spectral song structures on a 39 minute psychedelic journey.

Lead single ‘The Sun Ship’ spied a kaleidoscopic assortment of radiant tones set to come on the new album; a wave of jovial acid expected follow the track’s charming character. In parts, this is the case. However, intertwined you’re hit with a series of vigorous mood swings announcing themselves in a blunt manner. Free floating melody is met with brooding, pensive moments provided by instrumental tracks ‘Oh Bother’ and ‘Lunar Surf Graveyard’; both songs fitting scores for the wandering souls of the Dust Bowl Plains.

The album itself wanders on, frontman Newcombe’s vocals intermittently flicker in and out over the course – opening track ‘Good Mourning’ and ‘Third World Pyramid’ features predominantly a female lead (the latter of which would not sound out of place on a Stereolab record). The sense of distance stems mainly from the lyrics that feature throughout. Not due to inadequate content, but more so through an inability to decipher and connect to the otherworldly sentiments Newcombe is offering in his writing.

It feels more so now that The Brian Jonestown Massacre aren’t as effortlessly transcending their spiritual aura onto record. Anton Newcombe does not appear self-indulged on Third World Pyramid; his head up and peripherals wide with no real fixation; ‘My soul is singing’ emotively rings out on the album’s exploratory number ‘Assignment Song’.

Musically, The Brian Jonestown are as effervescent as ever. ‘Government Beard’ and ‘Like Describing Colours To A Blind Man On Acid’ pack a vintage psych rock punch, bringing the album back down to earth from its momentary trips to the outer edges of the cosmic landscape.

Cult bands that continue to churn albums out beyond their musical peak walk a dangerous path, a path always intensified by the expectation to recreate a former sound which was distinctive to a time and place of days gone by. While mid ‘90s BJM albums serve as a defining influence in the lives of new listeners, the band has avoided a cataclysmic fate akin to The Pixies, stretching out their legacy so fresh faced fans can have a diluted taste of the raw dynamism that gifted The Brain Jonestown Massacre with such status. Third World Pyramid is a dusty time capsule opened 20 years after being sealed, a gentle reminder of Anton Newcombe’s prolific nature and inimitable craft.

Originally published to Muso’s Guide 26/10/16

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