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  • Writer's pictureCase Cockrell

“Nothing Can Stop The Sound.” A Review of The Brian Jonestown Massacre’s 20th Studio Album

On this record’s 2nd track, frontman Anton Newcombe sings, “Nothing can stop the sound.” Since 1990, San Francisco’s The Brian Jonestown Massacre has been making noise with countless LPs, EPs, and storied chaotic live shows. Just Google “Brian Jonestown Massacre Show Fight,” and you’ll know. With this being the band’s 2nd LP in less than six months, The Brian Jonestown Massacre has shown stoic maturity and a glowingly peaceful evolution that allows for dynamic stability. With the Neo-Psychedelia influences raging through many bands in the touring sphere in this day and age, The Brian Jonestown Massacre has carved out their place as not just a known spectacle but a band that hones their craft and releases music that builds on each previous release.

The Brian Jonestown Massacre is a band that’s survived every roadblock in the book. From rotating band members, drug addiction, and the ever-so-eventful antics of the only stable member of the band, Anton Newcombe, The Brian Jonestown Massacre have shown the indie rock underground that they’re not going anywhere despite every hardship encountered. On the 2023 release The Future Is Your Past, we can see that Newcombe and the band can evolve their sound while keeping everything that made the band so great in the first place stay intact with laser-sharp precision.

This album sits just under the 40-minute mark, a shorter expedition than many of Newcombe’s other records. Since Anton Newcombe and the band seem more under the gun here, many lyrical stanzas and instrumental jams say what they need to say before moving on to the next idea. The band is at their dynamic best on this record, especially long-time tambourine player Joel Gion, whose appearance in the DIG! Documentary made for a hilariously memorable piece of the long-debated film. Gion’s tambourine is all over this record; yes, it’s loud and proud.

On the track, The Light Is About To Change, the upbeat nature of this cut provides Newcombe with a boastful landscape. The shreddy guitars and Newcombe’s self-glorified lyricism make for an absolute rocker that could be aligned with the band’s earlier 1990s masterpiece, Give It Back. The bouncing drumbeat on this cut accompanies Newcombe’s shameless vocal delivery, and the lyrics are no exception. “I’m making space for my own head; I’m making space to be free.” Newcombe sings. Us too, Anton. Us Too.

When we concern Anton Newcombe’s output with the band on releases like Who Killed Sgt. Pepper and My Bloody Underground, the lo-fi murkiness of this pair can seem like a shame. The endless fuzz jams and overly packed instrumentals hide what Newcombe does best. On this new record’s standalone single, Fudge, the band is doing what they’ve historically done best. The twinkly acoustic guitars and the rustling tambourine make this feel like it’s already a BJM classic. The Neil Young-esque drawl from Anton Newcombe also pairs well with the keyboards accompanying the guitar solo on the track’s outro, with a cherry on top in the form of Gion’s tambourine as the track starts to fade out.

The tremolo guitar intro on Cross-Eyed Gods makes Newcombe’s narrative come to the forefront. Newcombe sings, “Nobody knows what to say ever since you went away.” With Newcombe’s sense of longing on this track, it appears the singer is still fundamentally the same as himself in his earlier career, but is much better about spelling out his grievances through song. The overall moodiness of this track wraps up the first half with a ballad-like structure that gets to the point quickly with a savory guitar solo that sends the track home.

The Mother of All Fuckers is a track that brings back the BJM’s booming fuzz factor. The drum rolls and lively chord progression here pair well with Anton Newcombe’s passionate vocal delivery, which also comes with some rich, overarching keyboard notes that add to the track’s compelling jam for the entire last minute of the song. Something to behold about Newcombe’s songwriting are his vast, always ambitious visions. From all the bells and whistles Newcombe crafts with each track, there is always something new to be discovered in the mix with each repeated listen. When the track rides into the sunset in a cacophonous paradise, it only ties up all the loose ends of the most chaotic track on the record.

The 2-minute banger Your Mind Is My Cafe has a thundering bassline that accompanies Newcombe’s vocals that become a standout right out of the gate. The relaxed delivery of the guitar solo in the track’s back half modulates quite well with the rest of the band as the track trots to the finish line with driving drums and a backbone tambourine beat in tow. This is the type of hard-living rock and roll that Newcombe coined in the earliest days of his career.

The slow-burning album closer Stuck To Yous has Anton Newombe as personal as he’s been on this entire record. The dreary vocal harmonies with Anton and himself make for a somber ballad that carries itself subtly but is compelling at the same time. When the band finally comes in at the 3-minute mark, the explosion of the Jonestown ensemble comes to life in the most soothing and satisfying ways. A fitting end for the wall-to-wall excitement the listener has just experienced.

The Brian Jonestown Massacre is raging on in the current musical age. The band continues to tour, write, and churn out record after record. With Anton Newcombe’s massive output to date, the band has proved themselves as rock and roll legends that have become staples for the genre. With every given track on this record, Anton Newcombe is pulling off what he does best and basking in its glory every chance he gets. No one can blame him for this, as the rock star has had a long, often tumultuous career. Newcombe is still playing and kicking, so here’s to many more.


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