Review Summary: Comfortable in their own bubble...
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club have kept a low profile in the past years, so listening to their latest LP, Wrong Creatures
feels a bit nostalgic for me. I was a huge fan of theirs mainly during the Beat the Devil’s Tattoo
(2010) and Specter at the Feast
(2013) eras and very fond of Peter Hayes’ playing style. However, I found a multitude of new bands in this 5-year wait, so I returned less and less to their output. For better or for worse, the gang haven’t changed, keeping the Americana flavored, shoegaze-leaning alternative rock intact.
takes cues from its predecessor, being just as moody overall and less loud than earlier works. I always appreciated how the band maintained its own trajectory, oblivious to any trends passing them by. You can rely on them to produce a solid affair at the very least, still this can also be a turn off for those who seek unexpected detours. Some of the best moments here come from subdued tracks like ‘Haunt’ or ‘Echo’, mixing a dark atmosphere with mournful tones. The former boasts a dense, Wild West vibe, topped by soft croons and melodic choruses. The sparse arrangements work really well, plus they emphasize in a positive way the dead serious attitude BRMC portray. On the other hand, ‘Echo’ shares a more classic sound with Hayes’ trademark eerie guitars hovering in the background. The restrained, nostalgic but dreamy instrumental is simply beautiful (an adjective rarely associated with them), revealing a softer, vulnerable side. There is also the somber closer, ‘All Rise’ that gradually rises from a broken piano ballad to a soaring post rock-esque climax where cymbals heavily crash over effects-soaked guitars. It feels as if you had an epiphany and this blinding light appeared shortly in front of you, only to suddenly fade away, leaving you in the dark again. There’s a heavy, thunderous cloud weighing down on the entire record, so these tunes talking about ghosts, mortality, burials and several nihilistic elements can’t really be overlooked while hearing them. BRMC would definitely be one of Edgar Allan Poe and H.P. Lovecraft’s favorite bands.
Luckily, rock ‘n’ roll saves us from being entirely absorbed by pessimism. ‘Spook’, ‘King of Bones’ & ‘Little Thing Gone Wild’ bring the party back to life with jangly chords and groovy beats. As usual, Robert and Peter’s chemistry shares the spotlight, each bringing his own vision into the mix. Fortunately, at this stage, the group can pen a cool rocker in their sleep. As expected, there’s nothing groundbreaking, just some fun ditties to shake things a little. In between them, there are some dynamic, mid-tempo epics which go from dirty riffs to quiet segments in a very smooth manner. ‘Ninth Configuration’ slowly unfolds through nice guitar touches, before bursting with distorted open chords for the chorus. Finally, it turns into a rager, offering interesting, hypnotic repetitions and a noisy coda. Meanwhile, the cocky ‘Question of Faith’ features a catchy bass line alongside infectious hooks. The straightforward, familiar structure makes it one of the most accessible cuts on Wrong Creatures
. ‘Carried from the Start’ follows a Brian Jonestown Massacre formula mashed with a steady BRMC rhythm. The result is satisfying enough even though it won’t change any opinions on the LP.
Unfortunately, this bubble the band locked itself in keeps them from exploring new grounds. The accumulated experience speaks for itself as none of the songs are disappointing (except for maybe ‘Circus Bazooko’ – I still can’t say whether I dislike it or not). However, they all feel cut from the same cloth. I wish they weren’t so stiff, so they experimented more. Diversity is needed to keep things intense (or at least interesting) all the way through. Wrong Creatures
is an often somber listen, better done at night. It isn’t Black Rebel Motorcycle Club at their peak, although it shows the three seasoned musicians doing a good job in their own field.