The Brian Jonestown Massacre


Brian Jonestown Massacre photo




Contributor: Mat Baker

I need to start off by saying: I am not worthy.

I don’t say this out of charming British self-deprecation, or because I think Anton Newcombe is a godlike figure. It seems to me that this wildly unpredictable, opinionated firebrand, now a middle-aged family man, could probably still start several fights in an empty room – but I am sure he has his faults too.

I’m not worthy because I am late to this party, and I am too old to do the fanboy thing, so I just don’t have the headspace to immerse myself in all things BJM. But my, he has quite the adoring following. I have stumbled across a fan site on Facebook, and to many of them Anton is their musical God. To some of them, he might actually be God. Maybe he is – I’m not an expert on these things.

So, I am not worthy because there are many better-informed fans than I to write this list. But that such a list has not appeared here before is a travesty because the Brian Jonestown Massacre are fucking marvellous.

Potted history – formed in 1990, they are more of an ongoing project than a group, with Newcombe as the constant presence, with a rotating array of musicians. Think sort of Fall-ish. Kind of. They have released 20 or so albums, and are prodigious tourers, with a huge following (in a kind of underground way).

They would be difficult to pigeonhole, but psychedelic rock seems to be the best fit, although they veer outside of this genre regularly. If you haven’t been down the psychedelic rock rabbit hole, it’s well worth a trip. Moon Duo is a great modern example – it’s all moved on since Jefferson Airplane and the Beatles – and there is many a modern band making some instantly likeable stuff that can actually sustain you as well. Wooden Shjips are well worth a few hours of anyone’s time.

I had better get back to the BJMs (as my friend Gavin calls them). I’ll be honest – the appalling pun that is their name put me off for years. As an indie-rock aficionado, they kept coming up, and as a stubborn idiot with preconceptions, I kept avoiding them.


And then I heard Memorymix and was immediately hooked. Memorymix is not at all typical of their output – it’s a repetitive techno kind of affair – and now my children always know when I am on one because it is the first tune to be blasted out to announce to the family that the old man is on the single malt and will be passed out in bed within two hours.

So I delved. And I delved. And I’m still delving. Newcombe has collaborated with Canadian singer Tess Parks on a couple of albums – I Declare Nothing (2015), Tess Parks & Anton Newcombe (2018) – and if you haven’t heard her, I can highly recommend you designate a couple of hours to educate yourself. Try Fingertips on this playlist.

This top ten is more of a taster of the Brian Jonestown Massacre. I asked on the FB fansite for people to nominate their favourite songs for this project, to see if I had missed any bangers, and of course, I had. I was inundated. It was actually mildly overwhelming, and the comments showed just what kind of following the band has. Just on the right side of fanatical would be my judgement. Just.

So I put the suggestions on a playlist, and played them a lot. A lot. And I squeezed out this list. Please treat it as a starter dish if you’re not familiar with Newcombe’s output. There’s a smorgasbord of delights out there, and I will have missed loads.

You’ll need to be cranking the volume up here. This is rock music, after all.


Throbbing GristleDon't Get Lost
David Bowie I Love You
(Since I Was Six)
Take It From The Man!
Vad Hände Med Dem?Revelation
PishMini Album Thingy Wingy
Le Sacre Du PrintempsMusique de Film Imaginé
FingertipsPol Pot's Pleasure Penthouse
Open Heart SurgeryBravery Repetition And Noise
When Jokers AttackAnd This Is Our Music
AnenomeTheir Satanic Majesties' Second Request


BJM playlist





The Brian Jonestown Massacre official website

BJM (Wikipedia)

BJM private facebook group

Anton Newcombe interviewed by Krishnan Guru-Murthy on C4 News (2015)

The Brian Jonestown Massacre (AllMusic)

Mat Baker, 52, politically disenfranchised, would-be businessman. Often argumentative, usually socially peculiar. Loves people but dislikes the general public and is invariably an appalling judge of character. Takes weird enjoyment from confrontations that most people avoid. Musically eclectic, and blessed to be living in the golden age of audio entertainment options. Plays cricket..

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