I always thought Anton Newcombe would be one of those people who would just be fucked up forever. You know the type - pickling himself, like Keith Richards, until he got to that perfect state where all his vices would find themselves in a state of precarious balance that would allow him to achieve immortality. But in the last few years, following a frenzy of manic activity, dalliances with dance music and disturbingly attention-seeking song titles like “Bring Me the Head of Paul McCartney on Heather Mill’s Wooden Peg (Dropping Bombs on the White House)” and “Auto-Matic-Faggot for the People”, Newcombe sounds like he’s started to level out.
The tipping point came on 2012’s Aufheben - its knowing title, a multi-faceted German word which could mean “to destroy” or “to preserve”. It was the best Brian Jonestown Massacre album in fifteen years. The electronic experiments weren’t quite gone, but they hit a newfound coherence; songs like the transcendent “Blue Order/New Monday” were blissed-out masterpieces, but they sounded like the work of a man trying to prove his worth after a while in the wilderness.
As with its predecessor, Revelation suits its name perfectly. The jokey referential song titles are out, and the rest of the band, seemingly, are back in. More than any BJM album in years, it sounds like other musicians had an active hand in its creation. Revelation is free and easy, the work of a group hitting their stride. Self-recorded on an almost non-existent budget, the album works much like those early Jonestown records, where all bases got covered: there’s gauzy krautpop, swaggering Stones rockers and dazed country - and that’s just the first three tracks. Yet, the eclecticism works; the highlights ring out like shots - thundering opener “Vad Hands Med Deem”. Meanwhile, what could be considered mis-steps just sound like curious diversions - the flute-garlanded Wicker Man folk stylings of “Second Sighting”, and the ensuing pairing of bedroom beat-driven tracks which follow spring instantly to mind.
But BJM know which side of their bread is buttered, and their genre synthesis works better here than most other recent Jonestown albums - and, indeed, most other retro-stylists in the field. “Duck and Cover” plays like what the new Horrors album probably sounds like to members of The Horrors, while the acoustik motorik “Goodbye (Butterfly)” floats off in an endless jangling chug with “doot-doot” backing vocals that suggest a certain amount of sympathy for the devil.
“You’ve got to wake up and be a man,” Newcombe commands early on in Revelation, “and have a plan.” This ain’t no twelve-step jive-talking bullshit. This is real rock and roll, with purpose and determination. Thirteen albums in, and the Brian Jonestown Massacre may have just delivered their most impressive album yet. Clear heads prevail.