I’m going to ask you a question. How many musicians can you think of who has released more than 20 albums? OK, got a rough number. How many of those have been touring regularly, and are still touring? Still got a short list. I’d wager that Anton Newcombe and The Brian Jonestown Massacre aren’t on your list (to quote Richard Osman, “Well done if you got that at home” if they were). Since 1990 Newcombe and a revolving door of musicians have released 19 albums of psych, folk, prog, indie, Krautrock whilst hitting the road as and when they can. Their 20th album is now upon us and it’s one of the finest things Anton Newcombe as ever released.
The album was recorded during lockdown and after a period of writer’s block. With time on his hands Anton Newcombe was free to go to his studio every day and just write… for the hell of it. The songs he wrote were different to the majority of his recent output. They reminded me of those seminal early records. Written before fame was a thing. When all that mattered was creating art.
The opening track to ‘The Future Is Your Past’ is ‘Do Rainbows Have Ends’ and features trademark jangling 1960s guitars, quivering lyrics “I’ve done my very best but it’s a start” and “love is all I have to give” feel like vintage Newcombe, but the music isn’t heavy its lithe and full of hope. ‘Nothing Can Stop The Sound’ feels like a mantra finally put to music. I can imagine Newcombe has repeating to himself when things were bleak: “Nothing can stop the sound. Nothing can stop the sound…” And he’s right, y’know. The song is catchy and get stuck in your head all to easily.
Lead single ‘Fudge’ is a slow, more melodic, song that seems to be questioning existence. Considering it was recorded during a global pandemic Newcombe is asking questions we all asked ourselves. “How does it feel to be real; does it feel to be dead?” and “I imagine the things that you’re thinking alone in your head” pretty much sums it up.
The standout track on ‘The Future Is Your Past’ is the album’s closer ‘Stuck to Yous’. This is a slow burner, dripping in 1960s psychedelic. Opening with piano before a dexterous guitar and soaring strings take over. The usual cues BJM are there but instead of sounding part pastiche, part treading water they sound incredible and impassioned. ‘Stuck To Yous’ gradually builds until it’s a seething mass of jubilant noise and confusion. Its feels like a fitting way to end a remarkable album. And one Newcombe should be remembered for.
‘The Future Is Your Past’ is the most consistent album Newcombe has released since ‘Methodrone’. Before you all @ me I’m not saying that the 18 albums that slot in between the BJM’s 1995 debut and ‘The Future Is Your Past’ are bad – they aren’t – and I’m not saying they don’t have good songs, they all do, but collectively they don’t always work as well as they should. There is one, or two, tracks that aren’t quite as strong as the rest. On ‘The Future is Your Past’ this isn’t the case. Every song is absolutely fantastic and could have been a single.
On ‘The Future is Your Past’ Anton Newcombe writing for the sheer pleasure it gives him. These songs are for him. He hit the studio every day for two and a half months and just wrote and recorded. After listening to ‘The Future Is Your Past’, and last year’s ‘Fire Doesn’t Grow on Trees’ they feel like the start of a golden age of The Brian Jonestown Massacre.
Welcome back Anton. We’ve missed you.
Words: Nick Roseblade