Net Nuggets 8: BJM—Live!

The Brian Jonestown Massacre: «Hide and Seek» (live) [mp3]
We liked the same things, but always for different reasons. But whether standing in the middle of the cramped crowd in London's Koko in 2006, or up by the front of the stage in the Hague in 2007, holding this girl I was playing emotional hide and seek with—stoically, almost cruelly using strategic omissions and tactical evasions to avoid revealing the true extent of our feelings (if she knew just how devoted I was to her she'd surely have eaten me alive)—I actually got that obscene cliché about music bringing people together. Finally, as we left the venue high from the soaring performance of this song in particular, we loved the same thing for the same reason.

Although a staple of Brian Jonestown Massacre shows, initially «Hide and Seek» was released in its nascent demo version, recorded solo way back in 1995 by Anton Newcombe, then in a radio session band rendition as an added bonus on a career retrospective. Yet none of these versions capture the upwards spiralling elevation of the group's live performances of the song. (No recording could, which is why you should catch them live.)

Nick Cave, Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen are all masters at capturing the loss of love with their eloquence, clever turns of phrases, and penetrating vision (no pun intended). Sometimes—when they can get their minds out of the abyss—they even manage to replicate the rush of being in love. Better lyricists than Anton Newcombe by far, they've nevertheless never created anything as transporting as Newcombe and his Massacre do with their live rendition of «Hide and Seek».

Listening to it brings out love—not the romantic delusion, but a directionless joy without meaning or reason that can lift anyone out of any conceiveable funk. Gratitude at being alive and conscious in song format, its gradual euphoria isn't so much hope as the foundation upon which hope is built, and so towers over hopelessness. What lifts it above most rock music is that it isn't about having a good time, but about rapture.

From what I can gather from the unintelligible singing, «Hide and Seek» is a love song. The delivery of this particular performance, however, steps inside the melody and only uses the lyrics, scales them like a ladder to be discarded once at the top. The slowly, steadily swelling, wordless interludes appear, almost impossibly, to rise and rise, yet never quite reach a climax. (Or maybe it's already there?) It either swoops you up out of death or down towards it, but never into it—a raven taunting a dog, and a transcendent hovering, as near death as it is held up by life.

Which is why we'd feel so high when we left the gig, this song the single point that locked us into each other, completely.

So Death, if you're reading this:


Get a recording of the entire gig here.

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