Having formed in 1998 in San Francisco, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club have returned with their eighth studio album, Wrong Creatures. How will the rock heavyweights fare after 20 years on the road?
Rattling and revving into life, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s new album opens with the atmospheric “DFF”, but soon kicks into gear, and the album proper, with “Spook”. The overdriven guitar carries the track over its bluesy-swaggering rock vibe with the assuredly cocky vocals of “INSERT” rocking and rolling along the track’s journey. It’s a good start to what is, overall, an average album.
With two decades behind them, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club have got that as an achievement in itself behind them. Named for the biker gang in The Wild One, where Marlon Brando created the original biker image for the future of cinema. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club have always aimed to follow the same path of defiance and of course, rebellion as the eponymous biker gang, and to give them their due, they’ve managed this. At least to a point.
Whilst they’ve taken clear influence from bands such as Ride and The Velvet Underground, the band haven’t truly managed to break free of these touchpoints. “Echo”, is a clear indication of this point, with a bass line that literally screams “Walk On The Wild Side”. Lou Reed would at least be proud of the reference, and in fairness to the band, they’ve never made any secret of where they take their sound. Despite this however, it still manages to remain one of the more satisfying songs of the album. The vocals feel less detached and arrogant than across many of the other tracks, and the guitar pitch changes punch through the more sluggish drum tempo and foggy bass to create a more complex track.
There are however, too many long songs on the album. Time itself should never be an issue, but if the track simply feels like its near seven-minute running time is dragging, it’s going to feel much, much longer than a dull three-minute pop riff. “Ninth Configuration” and “Circus Bazooko” are two such tracks.
The former is simply a boring ballad, with a return to the sneering vocals that make it hard to engage with the lyrical content when the singer themselves sounds disengaged with their own material. “Circus Bazooko” at least makes an attempt to break new ground, but throwing in a jack-in-the-box melody over some punky distorted vocals sounds frankly jarring and a bit ludicrous considering the normal style of the band.
Thankfully, for those seeking a bit more of this moody, edgy rock band, there’s a little garage rock gem tucked away in the mire of ballads.
“Little Thing Gone Wild” is a punchy, lo-fi bit of thunder that, for its three-minute lifespan, embodies the spirit of the road, of rebellion and of rock, that the band seems to spend most of its time seeking on this album. As the album hits its final throes, “Carried From The Start” and “All Rise” come to lead us out of the album. Unfortunately, if we were carried from the start, we were dropped at the end. The album simply lacks the drive and momentum to be able to use two slower songs to be able to tail the album off.
The album, like the inspiration for the band’s name, references The Wild One in another way; when asked “What are you rebelling against, Johnny?” He replies, “Whaddya Got?”. The band just don’t seem to have been able to focus their supposedly rebellious attitude. Whilst a rebel without a cause may be no issue in a roving biker, for this band, it may be too late to hone that edge.
Author: Steve, Southgate store