Friday Album Portrait – The Out Crowd’s “Then I Saw the Holy City”

Dig!…… were you there? Did you buy the ticket and take the ride on a mid-90’s post-grunge pre-indie (awful word) reinterpretation of suburban malaise? Were YOU the one of the kids in their designer jeans reaching towards the greater beyond? Tweenage strangeness and early-20’s cocaine benders along Pacific Northwest highways, hell-bent after the high watermark & infinity but content with finding anything… chased by the ghost of Kurt & fueled by cartons of Marlboro Red 72s…were you there? I missed the scene but stumbled onto the documentary, like any scout’s-honor digital ager does when he wants to brush up on his/her letters… Dig!…Headlining! ONE NIGHT ONLY! The Dandy Warhols/ Brian Jonestown Massacre!

The film diagrams ecstasy-induced come-downs & deep-fetter’d emotionalism & the natural state of art, which is conflict. The lead singer of Brian Jonestown Massacre (Anton Newcombe) acts always out of insanity but (at the same time) usually out of vision, from a mind within a man that every musician interviewed in the film described as ‘genius.’  Along BJM’s road of drug use, stardom, maladjustment and (ultimately) schism, the viewer is introduced to Anton’s supporting cast… a freak-out tambourine player, a sylphy Eastern girlfriend (with an equally destructive heroin sweet-tooth), and a bitching guitarist who quits at every other stop along their ever-defecting, Gulf of Tonkin bus tour… the lead man behind The Out Crowd, Mr. Matt Hollywood.

After wiping off enough of Anton’s bullshit, Hollywood jump’d out of the tour bus (but in the last couple years he grew weary and re-jumped back on…which may or may not bankrupt the thesis behind this write-up…ahh fuck it) and formed his own psych-rock-anarcho-feel good orchestration. Anton probably laughed and plugged-in & went back into the insular world created for, by, to, from and of himself… Maybe he did or maybe he didn’t, but Matt Hollywood tells the strange story of collaboration & inspiration & explains why the collaborative nature of music separates it from most of the other arts… the neurotic sculptor digging remains out of a cemetery, the forsaken novelist destined for another alcoholic night of cigarettes & regret… music depends on fitting into a whole, while other mediums require piecing together one.

Hollywood once confessed to a reporter, “I will always love [Newcombe], and I will always miss the fact that musically he’s one of the people I really connected with, and it’s hard playing with other people knowing that there’s this other guy who’s like an extension of my own mind.” His last remark unearths the lynchpin… an overlap of consciousness & a leap of faith.

So what happens when Luigi heads down the drain, leaving Mario to fight Bowzer on his own? Sometimes the outcome is less than ideal… see: prime example… Mick deciding in the mid 80’s that he didn’t need Jagger and released She’s the Boss, it became obvious to the rest of the world that the album’s misnomered title should have been christened Keef’s the Boss. Sure John & Paul put together fine solo careers…but it wasn’t Sgt. Pepperworthy. There’s no way a guy named Matt Hollywood could lose the genius responsible for BJM’s output & create an album on his own that not only extends BJM’s sound but proves that he might have been the major player all the while… Oh, you want proof? Enter –>The Holy City… a testament of the strongest, the survivors of the People’s Temple Agricultural Project.

“Little Elf” starts off on a drone… a voice, a decaying tape bleeding television strange… slow and incoherent then funky and recognizable… like many BJM openings, an invitation to trip. As the rhythm carries and the membrane bursts,  the BJM sound is uncanny…I was listening to Her Majesty’s for the first time … “All the people standing in their lines, going nowhere wasting all their time, they’ll drag you down and screw you, mess you up and do you in, we’ve got something they could never find.” Simple psychedelia, homegrown like a basil plant on the window ledge slurping up the last photons of an Indian Summer… loose but taught & tambourine driven…spreading love, spreading life, spreading energy.

“Be Good” (I know I’m reviewing the first two songs of the album and you’re thinking I didn’t listen through the entirety because the time happens to read 4:00 on a Friday… but what reality matters?) is prototypical slow-stop-heavy-slam mushroom bliss… “Be one of us because you’re everybody”… Hollywood’s lyrics hang subversive & anarchistic, within a context of melody and blinding shamanic fractals… jungle cats & river monsters & a vibrating ancestry… the whole song grips. It beams up to the point where none of the flowery-freelover’s  claim they’ve been pushed out the front seat & into a Gallic conquest, but keeps the speed-freaks & octane huffing gonzo’s content in a chakratic rush of tongue sex (see: album cover).

The feminine croons that hover over “Big Brother” & “Eyes of Blue” turn me on. Period. Then emerges the resurrected, a Lazarian-phone-a-friend… “Bring out Yer Dead,” a call to arms between a call to life after a call to the local dope man. “Treaty Breaker” represents the be-all-end-game to spirit hymnals, a saddle-back’d ride onto one of Arizona’s oldest corners of desert…a flute, indigo-driven and contingent on the wind & sky…the brother of “Instant Dharma,” another fire-circle song for the aesthetes with nothing better to do than Get Busy Waitin’ under the porous firmament… “Sports” had to have been written by Anton, surely? Sex, drugs and rock? The extended jam, riffing and riffing past the thermosphere & into the realm of Spacemen 3… you’ve heard it a million times before with BJM, but not quite like this…this sunny-day in the middle of winter music…stoned & freezing & smoking a cigarette outside the library with a knapsack full of Apostolic Traditions & wellness magazines…having recently been the victim to mind theft.

Then I Saw The Holy City brims with jangle-room effect’d guitars and sly production moves (horns on “Your Highness”)… it runs long, an expansive LP…Spector wall-of-sound’ing..but it doesn’t usurp any early highs by adding unnecessary gulleys or streams to wade through at the end of a long day’s night…its no shit-cook’d hit of E after hour 3 on a smokin’ fine legged hit of LSD…no no, this a fever-inducing Pink PlayBoy Rabbit…Dig! A balance of drone & of haze, of late night cigarettes and early morning grindhouse amphetamines… melody and mystery and just enough quiet to offer the listener a chance to contemplate something like ‘Maybe that Anton fucker isn’t a genius after all?’


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