Black Rebel Motorcycle Club | Specter at the Feast (Abstract Dragon/Vagrant)

cd brmcTheir songs are no less powerful or intense, just no longer at a rocket’s pace.

 

On Specter at the Feast, San Francisco’s Black Rebel Motorcycle Club continue on the path they began in 2007 with Baby 81, and followed with 2010’s Beat the Devil’s Tattoo. That path really isn’t that far from where they started on their first two albums, but there seems to be more of an effort to slightly tone back the noise-rock aspect of their sound, perhaps in hopes of garnering some success here in the U.S.

It’s not a bad plan by any means. This is one band that really should be bigger than they are, but somehow stay just under the radar. I find this odd, considering they are well loved by many critics, and since the release of Baby 81, seem to be a popular choice on Hollywood soundtracks. I get that their ginormous, fuzzed-out-wall-of-guitar sound is not going to be everyone’s liking, but they are certainly more than just a noise band with a huge sound.

Unlike their contemporaries who have gone on to greater success while seemingly abandoning any semblance of their music that made them in the first place—(cough) Kings of Leon (cough)—BRMC continue to make wonderfully noisy, somber music in the vein of Jesus and Mary Chain. I hate that comparison as it’s totally unfair, but it’s really the best way to describe them.

Over the years, BRMC’s songwriting has gotten stronger, ranging from politically charged lyrics to songs about loss. “Specter” showcases their slightly toned-down noise rock blended with slower, lusher, introspective songs, the epic album-closer “Lose Yourself” being a perfect example. When I say the noise rock aspect is toned down, gone are the blistering tracks like “Spread Your Love” and “Six Barrel Shotgun” from their first two albums, replaced with tracks like “Fire Walker” and their outstanding cover of The Call’s “Let the Day Begin.”

Their songs are no less powerful or intense, just no longer at a rocket’s pace. For those who are not aware, Michael Been, the leader of The Call, was the father of BRMC frontman Robert Levon Been. They had a close relationship, with Michael working as part of their sound crew on tours for the last two BRMC albums before his passing. As a tribute, BRMC do an almost straight-up cover of the song, while still infusing it with their own unique sound. Very powerful.

An aspect of their evolved sound that is absent from this album is the stripped-down, folky, bluesy, acoustic songs. The closest we get is the very ethereal “Sometimes the Light.” With the flow of this album, an acoustic track would have been out of place. Overall, this is an excellent album.

Given their lack of popularity in the United States, I feel this is a make-or-break album for them. They do have some success overseas, but nowhere near that in their homeland; I’m not sure how drawing well on tour isn’t equating to large record sales and greater popularity. As a huge fan, I find this a little worrisome, as I want them to stick around. If you ever get the chance to see them in concert, please do, as they are immensely powerful live. Hell, maybe even buy a t-shirt or a poster or something. A | Mike Koehler

Standout tracks: Let the Day Begin, Lullaby, Funny Games, Sell It, Lose Yourself

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