Groove Is In Don’t Get Lost’s Heart
Even in 2017, the Brian Jonestown Massacre continue to pull from ‘60s psychedelia. Bandleader Anton Newcombe and his rotating cast of players have worked to craft mind-bending rock ‘n’ roll soundscapes for over two decades now. The group’s newest offering, Don’t Get Lost, continues this trend, as Newcombe again finds himself gravitating towards spellbindingly repetitive rock grooves and intoxicating instrumental layerings.
For those worried that BJM were verging towards a more experimental aesthetic with some of their recent releases — most notably, Musique de film imagine, which featured some gorgeous, yet highly atmospheric, compositions — fret no longer. From its opening moments, Don’t Get Lost emphatically pronounces its psychedelic rock roots. “Open Minds Now Close” yields a groovy rock beat, accented by a driving bassline and a colorful orchestra of electronic textures. Its distorted vocals are largely subdued, relegated to the background as emphasis is instead placed on the song’s strong rhythm section. “Melodys Actual Echo Chamber” follows suit, with an equally hypnotic groove that is nicely punctuated by masterfully panned guitar stabs and obscure vocals that merely run through a list of colors (i.e. “red,” “orange,” “blue”). And towards the backend of the album, “Nothing New To Trash Like You” emphatically reminds us of the band’s affinity for ‘60s rock, with a fuzzy blend of guitars and vocal warbling.
Of course, this is not to say that Don’t Get Lost is merely an album of ‘60s knockoffs. In fact, Newcombe’s approach — while hardly avant-garde — is still rather bold, as he incorporates a varied range of styles and instruments. “Charmed I’m Sure” is a delightfully atmospheric drone track that substitutes BJM’s characteristic hard rock grooves for a subdued, kick-centric beat that pulls us in with its unexpectedly delicate touch. In similar fashion, rather than hitting hard like most of the album’s tracks, “One Slow Breath” operates deftly between meandering synth harmonies, reverberant bass howls and abstract lyrics to establish an almost-spoken word quality. Sustained woodwind notes are also periodically incorporated, thus filling out the far corners of this sonic landscape to help this seemingly lackluster song resonate with listeners. “Throbbing Gristle” and “Fact 67” resurrect the vintage rock sound of the album’s earlier tracks, but they seem to be inspired by the alternative rock movement of the ‘80s rather than by ‘60s psychedelia. “Throbbing Gristle” opens with a throbbing bass and industrial noise percussion that evoke the sounds of Pretty Hate Machine. And the sultry vocal delivery of guest singer Tess Parks helps to cut through these harsh, mechanical timbres. “Fact 67,” on the other hand, is more reminiscent of goth rock, as the reverb-laden, main guitar riff is eerily similar to the opening line from The Cure’s “A Forest.” The following three tracks offer some of the record’s strongest moments. The airy synths of “Dropping Bombs On the Sun” work to capture a wistful atmosphere that is vaguely suggestive of Pink Floyd in terms of emotion. This is beautifully punctuated by Parks’s vocals and BJM’s hard-hitting percussive combo of drums and bass. Maintaining this theme of strong percussion, “UFO Paycheck” gives us a rousing performance on drums, as the song resolutely pounds along, gradually evolving in post-rock fashion. Next, “Geldenes Herz Menz” sees the band embracing a jazzier sound. Pete Fraser’s expressive performance on saxophone helps the band to achieve a much more organic flavor — something that cannot necessarily be said of all of Don’t Get Lost’s tracks.
On this same note, perhaps due to his recently-built home studio, Newcombe seems to be absolutely enamored with electronic textures on his newest LP. This emphasis helps some of the album’s works to yield much fuller, texturally rich soundscapes. However, on some pieces, nostalgic BJM fans may feel as if the band has underwent a complete makeover, as Newcombe has seemingly traded the Stones-esque psych-folk atmospheres of yesteryear for an unabashedly IDM aesthetic. For example, “Groove Is In the Heart” lacks the musical dynamism of the band’s earlier work, as its highly polished production seems to instead be the focal point. “Acid 2 Me Is No Worse Than War” and its strong backbeat play as a generic club banger that might be heard at a techno rave. These moments don’t necessarily mar Don’t Get Lost’s many successes — indeed, they’re impressive electronic offerings in their own right. However, their highly synthetic instrumentation will undoubtedly perturb fans of more organic-sounding musical styles (which includes much of the band’s output during the ‘90s).
Don’t Get Lost teeters along a precarious line between genres, as it navigates between grooving rock ‘n’ roll and more ambient-minded electronica. This genre-bending approach helps the album to accrue an impressive diversity of music, allowing it to appeal to a wide range of listeners — there is a little something here for fans of rock, IDM and even jazz music. Unfortunately, this approach also means that fans with more singular taste may find themselves uninterested in certain sections of the album, as its sound deviates from their preferred aesthetic. Yet even these more casual music listeners would do well to at least tune in to a few tracks from The Brian Jonestown Massacre’s latest work. There are few artists out there who can truly nail a groove quite like them.