Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
Take Them On Your Own
Before being just a spectacle or a joke without the fun, those evil-named gangs of nasty bikers were a real threat to peace and public security that left behind a trace of fear and danger in a very tumultuous time, in which something changed forever the life of a generation in the self indulgent post war American society. Just like modern cowboys they were personified in diverse quality films and in a couple of legendary ones, like Easy Rider and The Wild One. Currently people on motorcycles can be like any other citizen and biking is another harmless hobby rather than a dangerous lifestyle; a lot of boredom and self indulgence take place every day. And in those circumstances more and more rock artists seem to be even more tasteless and disposable than the dumbest teen pop stars. But self-indulgence and conformity are not infallible and, mixed up with all those CD's that you could trash without any regrets there are sometimes good rock and roll records.
Then between the surprisingly many interesting things that 2000 brought, the first BRMC album shined with a light of its own. BRMC managed to do unusual things starting from a heritage of the finest rock and roll of the last three decades. They took the distorted guitars of psychedelic, the overwhelming wall of sound of shoe-gaze, the energetic rhythms of rock and roll, and the violence of punk rock and created an amazingly cohesive work.
However, BRMC are not a bunch of vicious bikers though they can be a threat against boredom in the current music scene. They can move themselves in a violent, and at the same time astonishingly elegant territory, as if these guys wish to compensate their gangling looks with a sound that manages to stay stylish in the harshest moments and that is original despite being so clearly influenced. Thus, at the same beginning of the album when Robert Turner releases the first words in "Stop: We don't like you; we just want to try you. The voice fits in flawless, natural; the guitar is slow and dirty; the wall of sound grows over and over making this piece dense as hell despite its catchiness. Like I said, most of the time the album sounds distinctive while reminiscent of memorable acts: in "Six Barrel Shotgun" the rhythm is hard with a set magnificently crushing drums and a convincing, and almost intimidating voice, everything possessed by the same primal force of such bands as The Stooges or MC5. In "Kill the US government" the incendiary feedback leads to an ecstatic as well as desperate conclusion which reveals the utopian irony of the track title. "Rise and fall" is an adrenaline rush accompanied by a magnificent drumbeat that emerges as one of the most brilliant elements in the whole album. Less fire-starting but not less compelling are some slowed down moments: "Shade of Blue" creates a very dark atmosphere and one of the most successful "psychedelic" moments by BRMC, similar to what they achieve in "Suddenly" playing with a dark keyboard line. They can relax further without losing passion in "Ha ha high babe", a delicious mid-tempo song which survives its own relative simplicity.
Trying to show all you know can be a problem, especially if you are a multi instrumentalist and studio wizard. Perhaps that willingness is what makes this album a collection of courageous but from time to time not totally successful attempts to linger out of their own standards and the mere pastiche. The unnecessary extension of a few songs leads to a loss of intensity and conviction. "We are all in love" never really takes off and languishes almost eternally without the character that fills other BRMC pieces. "And I am aching" is a long, and at times clumsy ballad, "Generation" is a truncated psychedelic effort with an unnecessary and "ghostly" background voice which can easily be the most forgettable part of the whole album (really, what is that?). The band is so reluctant to be simplistic that this purpose can contradictorily be a major obstacle for their music to reach its pick. But the good moments flow like escaping any preconceived intentions, and in spite of everything, the record achieves an undeniable consistency based on the potential of even more dangerous adventures into that region in which BRMC sometimes enter triggering primitive forces. The combo appears to be consolidating and this looks like a transitional album on the way to further fearless and dangerous moments.