Anton Newcombe has a long history of erratic live shows, mixed messages and a revolving door policy with bandmates. Through all the sensationalism, he keeps churning out the music – a point often unfairly overlooked by many critics of his antics. Smoking Acid is a precursor to the next full length from The Brian Jonestown Massacre, and it shows Newcombe in fine psychedelic form.
Recorded in Iceland, Smoking Acid is five tracks long, but two of the songs are repeated as different versions. The Serious Matter is a typical hazy shoegaze song that BJM could write in their sleep. Though it ticks all the boxes with its repetitive groove, indecipherable lyrics and the – “sound of a thousand guitars’ that My Bloody Valentine and The Jesus and Mary Chain patented, it adds little to that template. It is a fairly close cousin to what the Dandy Warhols did at their peak – without the accessible pop angle. The second version of the song is apparently sung in Icelandic, though you wouldn’t know it.
Tempo 116.7 is the other track that appears in two forms on the EP. A departure from the style of The Serious Matter, it relies heavily on a syncopated loping electronic drum track with effects and samples phasing in and out of the mix. It works well in a vintage Primal Scream way, showing Newcombe is all just love, beads and guitar effects pedals.
In its second incarnation Tempo 116.7 takes on a Madchester vibe courtesy of gamelan and other percussion. Drum tracks are layered on top of each other until, in the middle of the song, the beats suddenly clear to reveal just a dub bass line and dreamy synth sounds. It works perfectly nicely, but it does sound like an engineer’s b-side play thing.
Rounding out the EP is Super Fucked, whose title could describe the sound coming from the studio speakers. It is a David Holmes/Death In Vegas electro stomper, with Bobby Gillespie vowels curling around the sneering vocals. It takes a nice left turn into a modernised and muscular Kraftwerk vibe at certain points, which adds a much needed angle to the sound. It is the highlight of the release and an exciting look at the direction they may be heading.
More than ever, Newcombe is sounding like a European musician on this EP. If this is a taste of the album due later this year, then it could be one of his best. He is stepping out of the haze to bring some definition to his music. It will hopefully allow more people to cotton on to his unwavering and obsessive form of creativity.
Smoking Acid EP is out on A Recordings through Inertia.