Brian Jonestown Massacre

O2 Academy

June 21, 2016

It would not perhaps be totally unfair to label The Brian Jonestown Massacre as serial underachievers.

Despite their unbridled potential they have encountered every dispute known to rock & roll: drug abuse, in-house quarrelling, insubordinate tendencies... and it’s a wonder that they have survived their 20 odd years of self-destructive controversy.

Anton Newcombe, BJM’s iconic figurehead, epitomises a stubborn and difficult frontman and, at times, has allowed his ego to run the show, resulting in dreadful repercussions. The band's unpredictability spews into their record releases, some incredible, some mediocre and some extremely poor. As they arrive in Oxford, it’s worth the admission fee alone to see which BJM turn up and what shape they will take.

What is immediately apparent is that this is a band who have mellowed and matured and allow themselves time to dig their heels into the set, and the show is a refreshing slow burner as the band take to the stage with delicate grace as opposed to the chaotic shambles of previous years.

Their gentle swaggering pace creates an hypnotic pulse which runs through the entire show and the layers of instrumentation, the band now a seven-piece, give a full-bodied depth to their sound, something which is a rarity in modern music.

The open chord structures of the songs allows the music to resonate and loiter and the head nodding, foot tapping rhythmic heartbeat of the tracks are really quite mesmerising as BJM play an all inclusive set of old and new but altogether impressive compositions.

The ego and over confidence has all but disintegrated, bar a few characteristic outbursts from Newcombe, and their work can now stand up for itself – and is as impressive a back catalogue as any band still touring.

BJM have refused to become saturated or perverted by the industry and instead continue to do what they want, which is their own brand of 60s psychedelia and for that, and sheer perseverance alone, they deserve real acclaim. The music never sounds dated or of an era and it is an honour to see them take to the stage, without too much of the fracas or conflict, and deliver a two-hour plus masterclass in style, delivery and tone. After 20 years of blood, sweat and tears the ethos which defined them still runs true and strong, and maintains their allure as one of the must see live acts still making the rounds.