Black Rebel Motorcycle Club | Black Rebel Motorcycle Club | Rating: 8.7/11 |
In case you haven’t notice, brevity is not exactly Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s strong suit. Peter Hayes (vox/guitar) can stretch a reverb-leaden guitar chord out about as long as it takes Robert Levon Been (vox/bass/guitar) to answer a question about the weather and, yet, here they are with their first album since 2005’s watershed Howl to clock in at under an hour. Still, Wrong Creatures (the trio’s seventh studio output – or eighth if you’re counting Take Them On, On Your Own’s updated reissue) stretches itself out in order to trip a different set of rock and roll wires.
Fact: Nothing breaks overtly industrious new ground or will shock (well, one song may cause an eyebrow to raise because that shit’s a little bonkers), but we’re not mad at that. The day that BRMC decide to take the “creative collab” route and go dubstep, I tap out. But while they are known outright (and rightly so) for their penchant for seedy and psychedelic deep dives, with a production assist from Nick Launay (Nick Cave, Arcade Fire), Wrong Creatures actually bears an unusual sheen of clean and control. Of course, not on the all too brief opener “DFF” (which could be likened to sinister and tribal kin of Fleetwood Mac’s “Tusk”), but once that hypnotic fog clears, the album unfolds in a totality of ritual.
It’s the stuff where glacially subversive guitars, smoky bass and Leah Shapiro’s punctuated beats and deep drum tones (anybody curious about how she tunes?) support the strange conversations:
“I find myself writing about death a lot. I find myself having a discussion with death, which sounds dark. For me, it’s dark humor.” ~ Peter Hayes
Chuckles all around, sir, and a fact that may or may not account for the album’s semi-slower and steady approach. Even though the deliciously filthy “Little Thing Gone Wild” (oddly tracked in the album’s second and more tempered half) is the record’s only thorough head banger and the trio fly as close as they ever will to dance party with “King of Bones,” satisfaction is found in the moody combination of the Middle eastern-flavored “Calling Them All Away” and the pained express and narcotic push of trying to unlove this world with “Haunt.” Every BRMC album is its own pastiche of challenged emotions giving chilly weight to sound, but if any one song will cause your face to tilt up towards the warmth of the sun (despite being shrouded in black leather), it’s “Echo” with its elevated, spacey chorus and Hayes thoughtfully leaning forward.
And Been is the lead source of the eyebrow moment via the quirky, post-punk, carnival-esque curiosity of “Circus Bazooko.” If they’ve has been listening to the Dig in their spare time (the band, not the documentary), that would explain it. If not, I got nothing.
While Wrong Creatures may not be the fiery rocker that tends to recruit fresh ears, there’s plenty of vintage Black Rebel Motorcycle Club to engage their faithful at the beneath-the-skin level such as their deeply appreciated habit of burying an absolute jewel amongst their revivalist adventures. As a song that literally grows up right before your ears, “Ninth Configuration” creates a weirdly elegiac disturbance that strikes a spine-arching glancing blow to near orchestrated rock gospel. It hits a very sweet spot the way Oasis did at their best and it’s a headphoner.
By the way guys (and gal), if a video for “Circus Bazooko” materializes and Pennywise isn’t in it, you’re doing it wrong, creatures.
Essential Tracks: “Ninth Configuration,” “Echo,” “Little Thing Gone Wild,” “King Of Bones,” “Calling Them All Away”