Brian Jonestown Massacre- My Bloody Underground
Mon 19th May, 2008 in Music Reviews
The 2004 documentary DiG! gave the world an insight into the fractious and tumultuous background of the Brian Jonestown Massacre (BJM), and in particular the brittle musical genius of Anton Newcombe. While the movie for the most part ultimately reduced the band to providing the musical and mental sideshow for a neat few hours of entertainment, the fact is this; they are still living this life and continuing their vision even after the cameras have been switched off.
As anyone who receives the band’s MySpace bulletins can attest, the ideals and outspokenness of Anton have never diminished. If anything the notoriety surrounding the movie has given him more leverage to release his unsullied musical visions himself, this album being a product of a partnership between his own label – The Committee to Keep Music Evil – and the UK’s Cargo Records.
My Bloody Underground is the band’s first new studio album since 2003’s And This is Our Music, and first release since the 2005 EP We are the Radio. The pent-up frustration and contempt for the state of the world that Newcombe has built up since then fairly seethes through the speakers on the loftily and cryptically titled opening track Bring Me The Head of Paul McCartney on Heather Mill’s Wooden Peg (Dropping Bombs on the White House).
This is the most musically diverse of the nine full-length BJM releases to date, the album as a whole being an almost living entity with a droning pulse that flows rampantly through its thirteen tracks. While on a basic level, the music can be described by dissecting the portmanteau that is the album’s title – the weeping loveless guitar feedback of My Bloody Valentine skirting around the unbalanced jagged, manic noise of the Velvet Underground – it is the varying use of the vocals that really sets it apart.
This is a most confronting album, an absorbing excursion into the darkly uncensored mind of Anton Newcombe. The only respite is a clunky false start and guitar tuning left on tape at the beginning of the pleasantly swirling second song Infinite Wisdom/My Last Night in Bed With You, before you are dragged down to a particularly unseemly place. The shimmering California sun is well and truly clouded over and the lyrics no longer concern themselves with the simple – œ60s peace and love ideals. Rather, Anton’s outpourings of despair at a rapidly declining world. We Are The Niggers of the World, purportedly written by Anton when he was just nine, is an impossibly haunting piano ballad that seems beyond the normal innocence of one that age.
Frustrated and tormented screams of anguish punctuate a number of songs including Automatic Faggot for the People, while foreboding news bulletins, muted conversations and stream of consciousness thoughts underpin Darkwave Driver/Big Drill Car. Ljosmyndir is a sparse and chilling multi-lingual mantra that Sigur Ros would be proud of, and penultimate track Monkey Powder, written with Mark Gardiner of the splendid – œ90s band Ride, is a sinister tale of broken and barren love.
Closer Black Hole Symphony sends you off in a chillingly downbeat finale as the album’s life force seeps out in an ever softening sonic sprawl. My Bloody Underground is an incredible album, and also seemingly an unsettling place conjured or lived though by Anton Newcombe. This is a piece of music you emerge from, not just listen to.