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Brian Jonestown Massacre – Revelation Album Review

The album cover for Revelation by The Brian Jonestown Massacre

“Vad Hände Med Dem?” and its phasing/shimmering background synth sound maintaining a hypnotic presence amid the urgent energy of the rest of the music gives one the sense right off that maybe this album will be like a progression out of the band’s previous two albums, Who Killed Sgt. Pepper? and Aufheben. The almost motorik beats and the synths mixed with Anton Newcombe’s knack for combining elements to create something that sounds familiar but also unique if you look past the superficial and at the bigger picture of the song.

“What You Isn’t” and “Unknown” hearkens back to the late 90s period of the band and the haunted, countrified desert folk psychedelia end of that songwriting. The wry but profane quality of the former and the romantic twinge of the latter has an organic quality that drew a lot of people to the band in its middle period. Partly because it truly anticipated the current re-discovery of an early 70s-era of California psychedelic pop. Except Newcombe has always been one of the more savvy appropriators of sound and in “Memory Camp” the song warps into a spacious trippiness worthy of Spiritualized. Or is it the other way around at this point? Whatever pointless lineage can be drawn there, “Memory Camp,” and “Days, Weeks And Moths” for that matter, and its wending, drifting melody is nothing too different for the band but it’s a sound that has left a massive imprint on the current era of psychedelic rock—the kind of languid dynamic with bright accents.

“Duck and Cover” breaks with the classic sound of the band from both its earlier periods and the more krautrock-esque recent flavorings. Dual keyboards weave together as a distorted guitar line gives the song some electricity like a more psychedelic version of Scenic. But more spacious.

“Food for Clouds” and “Memorymix” seem like familiar sounds for the BJM but immediately each brings in electro elements that transform what could have been a 60s-era psych pop song into something more modern and experimental. It gives you the sense that Newcombe and company are time traveling across this entire album in composing the music and mixing and matching ideas and aesthetics to produce something that pushes the band forward as an artistic entity. It would have been easy for Newcombe to produce a complete rehash of what he’s done before but his restless imagination keeps that from being a real possibility.

The results may be mixed for people expecting something specific out of the BJM. “Fist Full of Bees” is like some abstract Berlin cabaret music if done by New Order doing their level best to sound lounge at four in the morning. “Nightbird” is a simple, middle-eastern/flamenco inflected pop ditty. “Xibalba” sounds like Newcombe has been hanging out with Stephin Merritt with each vibing off the other to produce one of the album’s most immediately appealing songs as it sounds like an orchestrated dream pop mini-epic. “Goodbye (Butterfly)” may not have been written last but it seems to synthesize the elements of the sounds that have been a part of Newcombe’s songwriting for more than two decades while not trapped in a particular era of the band’s music. Is it a goodbye literally and a metaphorically to the band’s existing oeuvre? Let’s hope not but Newcombe hasn’t exactly had trouble reinventing himself as a songwriter in consistently interesting ways.

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