17 October 2018
The Brian Jonestown Massacre dish out the Kool-Aid at the Barrowlands tonight, and we all follow them hand-in-hand into sonic oblivion
Published in The Skinny
"They’re like a tame Tame Impala," a fellow audience member offers as an early evaluation of our eve’s headliners. Hearing this inflicts an intense moment of rumination: was there truth to this? How had the world been deaf to this comparison for so long? The swift internal rebuttal arrived at is: "bollocks." The Brian Jonestown Massacre are operating at full tilt modus operandi, with their distortion-rife, sonically thick, grunging psychedelia.
Nerves are afoot tonight, as The Skinny caught the hard grafting Californians on the festival circuit at La Route Du Rock earlier this year where they gave a somewhat lacklustre performance. In an open-air setting their sound floats away and dissipates into the ether without opportunity for connection, but the Barrowlands bottles their sound, giving it no chance to escape and the result is a swarming, smothering and utter resurrection of faith.
With 18 albums, a barrage of EPs, and God knows how many unreleased cuts, their setlist can really do whatever the fuck it wants, and it does. The lazy strum of We Never Had a Chance is a gentle usher into their psyche, but a telling one nevertheless: guitar focussed, frontman Anton Newcombe’s apathetic yet sincere vocals, and slippery, stoned solos that shine like piercing starlight through a cosmic cloud of rhythm. This is it. This is them in microcosm.
In attendance is a crowd comprised predominantly of BJM loyalists. Sprawling tracks against a backdrop of hypnotic luminance creates an enrapturing atmosphere where bromance is cemented with awkward jiving hugs and bleary-eyed, mouth-to-ear exclaims of, ‘Yassss, man!’ most notably when Pish’s hazy bearing presents itself.
There is zero utterance from the typically spicy Glaswegian audience, which showcases their unwavering respect for Newcombe and his domain. Even in (often lengthy) interludes to tune and swap out guitars, they wait patiently in silence, and when the first note breaks, the excitement from the Barrowlands mass is infectious and genuine.
The moment Mr Tambourine Man (but also so much more) Joel Gion starts his pepper-grinder shake for Anemone the crowd start swaying like submerged seaweed. The placing of this, their most recognised number, in the set’s hump slot shows their confidence in the succeeding material and their devoted assembly.
Newcombe’s rare moments of patter are charming and hilarious, reporting after the closing moment of a shatteringly sublime fresh cut that he titled it Thistle Up Yer Fanny, before chuckling to himself and clarifying that he’s jesting. His thick shades, standing swagger, and dauntless deerstalker enforce the notion that he is entirely his own entity.
The climactic A Word brings on another two guitarists (count ‘em, seven now, including bass) but it's apparent that the band have had trouble with timing in the past, as Newcombe politely barks to his troop, "Everyone together in the same pocket, alright," which receives a ripple of giggles from the crowd. Its droning descent spirals endlessly and is not so much a wall of noise but a supernovic cataclysm. On its closing note, Gion mic drops his wood blocks and departs with half of the band, but a fuzzing frequency prevails. Newcombe jumps behind the drums and begins thrashing manically; the menace is further fostered by a densely distorted bass. The rarest of live occurrences, Let’s Go Fucking Mental. Indoctrinated, we glug down their Kool-Aid, and to a scuzzing soundtrack we walk hand-in-hand into a sonic oblivion.
Photos: Martyna Maz