Review Summary: Black Rebel Motorcycle Club recover from a musical foray into the bland that made up much of their previous effort and put out a small stunner of an album in the sexy and dark Baby 81.
It is sometimes a fine line between what a band actually is and what a band thinks it is, and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club was a solid rock in roll band right out of the gate with their 2001 self titled debut and 2003 sophomore effort Take Them On Your Own
. But for 2005's Howl
LP the band seemed to shift to a "what we think we are" mode and turned out a record more about their influences then about BRMC itself. Not a terrible album but nothing to write home about either, the acoustic flavored affair was bland and some would say boring, and it lacked the sort of songwriting chops necessary to pull off what the boys obviously were shooting for. Wearing their hearts and influences squarely on their collective sleeves the album was the sort of indulgence usually reserved for bands with more years behind them and more solid ground to stand on. Another misstep like Howl and a young band could go down early. Thankfully for fans and the band itself BRMC's Baby 81
rectifies matters quite nicely, and then some.
Easily one of the years best and most accessible rock releases, BRMC waste no time grinding the gears early as the fun gets started on the swaggering opener Took Out A Loan
. A simple electric blues stomp with vocals awash in echo and with attitude to spare, it's got all the danger and edge almost everything on Howl lacked. Going uptempo for the next track Berlin
, and this is just a great single waiting to happen, all catchy guitar driven hooks and with lyrical verve to boot. The hard charging Weapon Of Choice
with it's propulsive, infectious beat and careening vocals follows all this tuneful rocking, and you just hope from here on out the band's previous effort remains a fading memory in our musical review mirror.
is what the music on Baby 81 is. Melodic, well played, and well done from the production to the simple yet full arrangements, this album has the sound of a band maturing and coming into its own. The Beatles inspired Windows
is lilting and lovely in its simplicity and engaging in its sentiment of paranoia, isolation, and hopeless romance. And tracks like All You Do Is Talk
with it's rootsy sound and mid tempo grace mix seamlessly with more foreboding cuts like Cold Wind
and the urgent guitar driven Need Some Air
, making an intoxicating blend of exciting rock n roll certainly not foreign to this band, but up until now not laid down quite this directly or confidently.
Furthermore all the BRMC sound textures and tones are in place throughout with nothing coming off as bombastic or over the top. Sometimes compared stylistically to The Jesus And Mary Chain (a fair comparison in some respects but unfair in most) the songs are recorded with a thick layer of sheen over them that is neither slick nor sludgy, but rather full and robust. 666 Conductor
is a slow burn that is both sexy and dark with its big drums and floating acoustic guitar , and Killing The Light
sounds like a dreamy ride home after a long night of hard drinking and maybe even some harder loving. The album highlight comes late on the record in the form of the niorish nine minute American X
that locks into a groove and stays there for the long duration. I can think of two nine minute songs I like. The Who's Won't Get Fooled Again
and now this. One of the reasons it's tolerable is you never notice it's nine minutes, it simply carries you along for the ride. Another reason is also why this album is so good, and that is it's a truly unified and focused work. You can pluck any number of songs out of here and listen individually and think "pretty good." But listen to the album on a whole from beginning to end and all of a sudden you find yourself thinking "ahh, yes!" The entire thing simply clicks in the best possible way.
For those familiar with BRMC you probably won't be surprised by this superior effort, only glad that after the lackluster Howl the band got back on track and delivered on their promising debut and follow up LP. And for those not as familiar with the group this is as good a place to start with the band as any. A masterful little work of sonic soundscapes, dark edges, muted colors, and low, simmering sexuality, Baby 81 is a most welcome mid year release that along with NIN's Year Zero should find some heavy rotation on many a rock music fans ipod as one of this year's most entertaining and involving listens so far.