For a band that has faced several internal strifes and was multiple times on the verge of imploding, The Brian Jonestown Massacre aged very well. Anton Newcombe is going stronger than ever, keeping himself focused and willing to constantly refine his output. Even the line-up has been quite stable during the past decade. Unfortunately, Matt Hollywood was kicked out of the band last year for undisclosed reasons, but other than that, everyone is at their places. Moreover, 2016 was a busy year for them, as they toured heavily after the release of Mini Album Thingy Wingy. I didn’t expect a new LP so soon (I’m sure most people didn’t), nevertheless, I was really happy to dig in the moment it saw the light of day.
Third World Pyramid can be considered a direct sequel to the strong Revelation, fully embracing the campy, ‘60s psychedelic rock ‘n’ roll. Anton gradually drifted from droning acid rock and the electronic elements of Who Killed Sgt. Pepper? (an album I consider to be heavily underrated), pushing for a return to form. On its predecessor, he finally sounded relaxed enough to indulge into his desired direction, yet here we have it in its final form. Besides being one of the most digestible in their catalog, this LP slides smoothly all throughout. From the first spin, ‘Assignment Song’, the 9-minute centerpiece stands out. The layered guitars gently strum in unison, while the catchy vocals accompany them really nice. Tremolo leads and lush organs embellish the song, until halfway, when it starts to truly unfold. Waves of feedback and oscillators find their way in between the wall of strings creating a mesmerizing atmosphere. ‘Oh Bother’ continues this trend, boasting a laid back groove driven by a Latin-esque trumpet and simple keyboard touches. Meanwhile, ‘Don’t Get Lost’ and ‘The Sun Ship’ crave for that classic BJM sound. The lush, mid-tempo rhythms echo the likes of Their Satanic Majesties’ Second Request, while fusing new sounds in the blend too. The former is a straightforward number that emphasizes Anton’s vocals, before leaving room for cool solos during the second half, whereas the latter lets the keyboards roll over twangy chords. The focused nature of the songs makes them really enjoyable, plus the often punctuating brass section adds a lot to the overall feeling.
Leaving aside the more spaced out numbers, we can also find a handful of uplifting cuts that work really well. ‘Government Beard’ mixes the more intense drumming found on Who Killed Sgt. Pepper? with jangly guitars, while ‘Like Describing Colors to a Blind Man on Acid’ rips a page out of the Give It Back! songbook. They are fun songs that need no further introduction. Then, there is the title track which might be the biggest surprise here. The post-punk beats and fast paced guitar leads reminisce early The Cure, however, Newcombe’s ethereal, reverbed vocals join in to instantly remind you this is still a Brian Jonestown Massacre record. The synthesizers considerably enhance the track, offering a lovely eerie vibe. Needless to say, repetition plays an important role to entrance you and make you dance.
In the end, Third World Pyramid is another rewarding listen for Brian Jonestown Massacre fans. It sums up various eras into a cohesive unit, but it also optimistically looks forward. Besides this, the shorter length augments its replay value, since it is easily enjoyable. Ten years ago, few would have bet the band would still be rocking today, let alone improving their work like this. Hopefully, they’ll keep the ball rolling for a long time.
How do you think this compares to music by Agony Shorthand? Another good punk rock band is Dr. Know, who is known for their rawness and innovation.