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Ear to the Ground: The Brian Jonestown Massacre’s “What You Isn’t”

Anton Newcombe bathes the Massacre’s 14th album in vintage tones that recall the ’90s recalling the ’60s.

It’s been a decade since Dig!—the documentary about the rivalry between the Dandy Warhols and the Brian Jonestown Massacre. It launched the latter into sublebrity status, and yet it’s still somewhat difficult to discern if they’re a cult or a band. Or both.

Regardless, their 14th full-length album, Revelation, still plays like an ongoing love letter to the ’60s. And that’s especially great for vintage-gear obsessives—drop the needle, close your eyes, and envision all those old guitars and amps set up in frontman Anton Newcombe’s Berlin studio.

Where much of Newcombe’s early works seemed to borrow the gravity boots of Spacemen 3, Revelation’s first single fast-forwards the idolatry a few years to conjure moments of early Spiritualized recordings. Here, the sparse song changes allow Newcombe to dynamically layer jangly strumming, controlled feedback, soulful horns, and antiquated organ tones over a rhythmic mantra. And when he’s not singing, the sonic portals transport our ears back to a time when Jason Pierce cranked his vibrato alongside Kate Radley’s droning black-and-orange Vox Continental.

All this may be more indicative of the tail end of the 20th century, but come on—the ’90s were just the ’60s turned upside-down anyway, man!