A guide to getting into the Brian Jonestown Massacre, courtesy of Nice Biscuit

If you’ve ever tried to get into the Brian Jonestown Massacre but have been daunted by their sprawling discography, we completely understand. Since the band’s inception in the early 90s, they’ve released a staggering 18 studio albums, not to mention a collection of EPs (13 of them), compilations and other oddities (if you haven’t seen their mockumentary Dig!, we highly recommend it).

It’s hard to pinpoint their best work too. And like any great cult act, everyone has their own opinion on the “essential BJM album”. Each record has it’s own charm and idiosyncrasies, traversing  60s psychedelia, Krautrock, shoegaze, Britpop and world music, sometimes within a single collection of tracks. Really, they are the essential neo-psychedelic band and one of the most influential rock acts of the last thirty years.

BJM are heading to our shores this June where they’ll be playing Vivid Live, plus a run of shows around the country. Joining them on two of those shows will be Nice Biscuit, one of our favourite new local psych acts and a bunch of self-proclaimed BJM fanatics. Before we catch them in town, we asked Ben Mulheran, guitar, keys and harp player from Nice Biscuit, to put together his essential listening guide to the Brian Jonestown Massacre.

You can catch Nice Biscuit supporting Brian Jonestown Massacre when they hit our shores this June. They’ll be joining them at the Northern in Byron Bay on June 6th and The Metro Theatre in Sydney on June 8th.

We’re also giving away a double pass to BJM’s Sydney show! Simply email [email protected] with ‘Brian Jonestown Massacre’ in the subject line, and tell us what your favourite track of theirs is and why.

Brian Jonestown Massacre

We asked our fav new local psych act Nice Biscuit to put together an essential listening guide to one of our (and their) fav psych acts, the Brian Jonestown Massacre.

Their Satanic Majesties’ Second Request (1996)

This was the first BJM album I ever bought and probably still my favourite. The first time I put it on I got up to the song Jesus and was sucked in. I hadn’t heard anything so droney and repetitive before and it started my love for repetitive music.

I think the whole band really gets around this album. Grace reminded me of a happy memory the other day of all of us coming home from a show in Byron one night having a big sing along to All Around You in the back of a taxi. It’s dense, layered, chaotic and very very psychedelic with an obvious nod to the Rolling Stones and Beatles’ Eastern phases in the title. There’s an Indian influence through the whole thing with sitars, tablas, harmoniums and just about every other instrument imaginable creating a very pleasing cacophony. It’s BJM at their lo-fi, messy best.

Standout track are Jesus, Anenome and No Come Down

Bravery, Repetition & Noise (2001)

This album has a special place in my heart. It was the soundtrack to my favourite holiday which coincidentally was a road trip to watch BJM play at Meredith. Every time I think of that trip
Nevertheless seems to play on repeat in my brain.

It sees them trading in the heavily 60’s psychedelic-inspired Satanic Majesties and Give It Back! or the freak-folk of Thank God for Mental Illness for a much more 90’s brit pop-influenced sound. The arrangements sound sparser, the production is cleaner and Anton even adopts a sneaky little British accent throughout. It’s more similar to their first two albums but without the reverb-soaked wall of sound guitars that you’ll hear on those. This one’s definitely worth a listen.

Standout tracks are Nevertheless, Sailor and Telegram

Who Killed Sgt Pepper? (2010)

This is definitely one of BJM’s most unhinged sounding albums. It feels like a calculated change in direction from their previous album, My Bloody Underground, as they swapped out lo-fi murky jams for crazy disco-inspired grooves.

The whole thing is really aggressive and quite insane both in its songwriting and production and at times sounds like a very very angry LCD Soundsystem. It’s super distorted and crusty sounding and sometimes the whole thing feels like it might just fall apart, but the grooves are so hypnotic and engaging that it’s very easy to find yourself getting lost in the repetition.

Every now and then there’s a bit of respite with ambient tracks and soundscapes which bring you back down before they lock back into another 7-minute groove. Even if you’re more a fan of their Beatle-esque psych, you should get around this album just because they tried something different, and in my opinion, pulled it off.

Standout tracks are This is the One Thing We Did Not Want to Have Happen, This Is the First of Your Last Warning, Tempo 116.7 (Reaching for Dangerous Levels of Sobriety)

Aufheben (2012)

The first BJM show I ever went to was on the tour on the back of this album and they played a fair chunk of it on the night. It was one of the last tours that Matt Hollywood did with them, so I was pretty chuffed I got to see something that resembled their original lineup playing together.

Stylistically it reminds me of Their Satanic Majesties with huge swirling organs, dense layering and clear Eastern influences, but where Their Satanic Majesties is steadfastly looking back in time, Aufheben seems to be pushing forward into unexplored territory.

It’s a thick and luscious album and the unrelenting rhythm section, which is suggestive of krautrock bands like Can and Neu! seems to ground it more in the future than the past. The songwriting and production style, however, means it is still very much a BJM album and one of their best at that. Standout tracks are Panic in Babylon, I Wanna Hold your Other Hand and Blue Order New Monday.

Don’t Get Lost (2017)

This is such an incredible album and definitely one of our favourites from last year. This was the first album recorded entirely in Anton Newcombe’s Berlin studio and the influences are there.

Like Aufheben, the krautrock spirit of experimentation is well and truly alive on Don’t Get Lost. It manages to move between genres but maintains a coherent sound the whole time. It doesn’t feel like a revivalist album like their earlier stuff but like it’s looking forward. It’s definitely a more contemporary sound and it’s a very engaging listen. It makes me very excited to hear the new album out in June.

Standout tracks are Open Minds Now Close, Charmed I’m Sure and Groove is in the Heart

You can catch the Brian Jonestown Massacre on tour this June:

2nd June 2018, Fremantle, WA – Metropolis

3rd June 2018, Adelaide, SA – The Governor Hindmarsh Hotel

6th June 2018, Byron Bay NSW – The Northern

7th June 2018, Brisbane, QLD – The Tivoli

8th June 2018, Sydney, NSW – The Metro

9th June 2018, Sydney, NSW – The Metro

10th June 2018, Wollongong, NSW – The Uni Bar

12th June 2018, Canberra, ACT – The Basement

13th June 2018, Castlemaine, VIC – The Royal Theatre

14th June 2018, Melbourne, VIC – The Forum