|If you’ve seen ‘Dig!’, you’ll know that Anton Newcombe isn’t the messiah: he’s just a very naughty boy. If it wasn’t for the passivity when it comes to his career and the aggression when it comes to audiences and his band, he’d be rightly famed as a musical innovator. Anton is a child of the 60s – the BJM are like the Stones’ rock’n’roll circus if Brian Jones, with his psychedelic, Eastern/African music obsessions, was ringmaster – but the sound is also effortlessly contemporary. There’s a strong resonance with the wall of sound approaches of My Bloody Valentine and Spacemen 3, both those bands also the products of men with stubborn adherence to incredible visions.
From the opening track ‘All Around You’, there’s a mood of disquiet. Anton, in mock-cockney voice, invites us to come on a fabulous journey. “You’ll be richly rewarded for your courageousness” he promises, but it’s pretty clear that it’s a headtrip fuelled by hallucinogenics and the song becomes progressively spookier and darker, haunted by manic laughter. Clearly, he was conceived after the Summer of Love.
Anton’s take on life is fuelled by a tangible sense of disappointment and betrayal (most blatant on CD2). ‘Sue’ is a long, psychedelic epic about a junkie prostitute, ‘Free and Easy, Take 2’ recounts how his girlfriend threw him out for sponging from her, ‘Nevertheless’ is full of pleading while the broody ‘Fucker’ flies off the handle again and deals with a time when Anton was “sad. Very sad”. All of which would be oppressive, if the songs weren’t so incredibly uplifting and, in the case of Matt Hollywood’s ‘Not if You Were The Last Dandy On Earth’, hilarious. Many of these form CD1, where ‘When Jokers Attack’ and ‘Servo’ are built around the most magnificent riffs. ‘If Love is the Drug’, with its “you’re so high” refrain, takes that 60s sound of the Stones, Byrds and Elevators and incorporates the drones, repetition and loping grooves of the Velvet Underground and MBV. Over the 2 CDs, representing the 10 albums that the BJM have released over the last 10 years (3 of them in 1996), the songs demonstrate every aspect of Anton’s magpie mind.
A few hundred words don’t do justice to this mind-expanding music. Easily the best collection issued this year, you absolutely need this record, if only to work out how many bands have used the BJM sound to more lucrative effect (hear this and realise where BRMC – whose Peter Hayes was once in the band – got ALL their ideas, including their new, gospel-blues direction). Let Anton take you on that rocket ride – but fasten your seatbelt first.