When you listen to the Brian Jonestown Massacre you imagine many things. Drugs, heartache, true rock and roll. You don't usually imagine a film script belonging to the French New Wave era. But then when have the BJM and their iconic temperamental singer songwriter/genius Anton Newcombe ever done anything we expect? 'Musique de Film Imaginé' is precisely that. Unexpected. The album pays homage to the likes of François Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard and many other French New Wave greats of the past and once again proves to us that BJM always have a trick up their sleeve.
Released on Newcombe's own A Recording LTD, the pre-release track 'Philadelphie Story' features French singer and actress Soko on vocals and certainly offers something different. If you can imagine a trip through a haunted house with your new French lover ending with a crime of passion, then you get the idea. The music represents precisely what New Wave stands for. It's existential themes about death and the absurdity of life, philosophy, horror; coincidentally all of the themes which have shaped the turbulent careers of the BJM.
The psychedelic rock and roll band started life in San Francisco, 1988, before releasing their début album 'Spacegirl and Other Favourites' in 1993. Since then it has been one big rock and roller coaster, from being critically acclaimed as the greatest band since the Rolling Stones to a drastic fall from grace, a period well represented in the 1997 documentary 'Dig!' which follows the fluctuating fortunes of the BJM and The Dandy Warhols. However, in a film which is supposed to represent the fall of a great rock and roll band through destructive habits and behaviours, the reality is that the BJM have gained a greater momentum, loyal followers and a deserved notoriety.
"Today I mixed 13 songs, started at 7am and was done by 1pm, found a drummer, taught him all the tunes, and then I didn't do anything else on my birthday". Such are the sound-bites of Anton Newcombe in 'Dig!' that it is easy to see how BJM have such a varied and vast back catalogue. In 1996 alone BJM released 3 full length records each one as contrasting as the next. The only thing they really have in common except for the underlying rock and roll guitars and driving bass lines; an honest sense of cool. 'Musique de Film Imaginé' appears no different. Just how many bands have the confidence and genuine coolness to release a soundtrack for a film which hasn't even been written yet? That's as rock and roll as buying a racehorse or driving a Bentley into a swimming pool, in my opinion.
When BJM played their last European Tour in the summer of 2014 Third Outing were lucky enough to have a brief encounter with guitarist Matt Hollywood and cult-hero tambourine man Joel Gion (who released his own record 'Apple Bonkers' earlier this year) and this cool sense of ambition was clear to see. They appeared easy and relaxed on stage to a near sell out show at Knust, Hamburg, and two and a half hours later they were still playing throughout their entire back catalogue, from cult classics of the 1995 'Methodrone' all the way through to 'Revelation' released just weeks before. The band appeared less turbulent and therefore more compelling to watch than ever before.
Anton took his usual place singing and playing guitar from the safety of the side of the stage, Matt Hollywood was his right hand man taking the lead on classics such as 'No Come Down', and the extravagant Joel Gion held the outfit together with the most pleasing tambourine stance Germany has ever witnessed. After 20 years of turbulence and failing to complete more live sets than completed, it seemed as though the BJM had finally got it right. We spoke to Hollywood after the show and asked him how the gig went. The band brought the house down and yet Hollywood's reaction was simple. "It was good. We like it here". Gion's reaction was even more succinct, just a large grin and nod of the head as he smoked his cigarette next to the tour bus.
'Musique de Film Imaginé' is released on the 27th of April 2015 and based upon BJM's colourful history and recent successful tour, expect something different. Expect something original. But most of all, expect something cool, something very cool indeed.
'Philadelphie Story' by The Brian Jonestown Massace, 7/10.
The Brian Jonestown Massacre, Knust, Hamburg, 9/10.
"The album that you are about to hear is a soundtrack, my own creation, a tribute to great directors and filmmakers to an era that now seems to be behind us. Leaving the smart person to care to imagine that this art could now be in the shadow of its former glory. The interesting thing about this project is that the film does not exist either. Even so, I imagined and I realised its soundtrack... Now it's your turn, you are the listener to imagine the film"