"The Black Rebel Motorcycle Club," named after Marlon Brando’s gang in the 1953 film "The Wild One," combines blues, hard rock, shoegaze and psychedelic all into one finely polished leather package. The band released their savage sixth studio album "Beat the Devil’s Tattoo" on March 8. The album is a diverse boot-stomping affair that adheres enough to the classic rock ‘n’ roll archetype to appeal to old school rockers and enough fuzz box flair to appeal to the alternative rock crowd as well.
The band is based out of Los Angeles and consists of guitarist Robert Levon Been, bassist Peter Hayes and drummer Leah Shapiro (of "The Raveonettes Fame", replacing founding drummer Nick Jago). Been and Hayes share vocal duties on their songs which often have political or religious messages. The band once had a crowd worked up into such a frenzy at the Leeds Town Hall in England that the remainder of the concert was cancelled for fear of collapsing the 150-year-old floor. This notoriety and the quality of their songwriting earned them a spot opening for The Rolling Stones on their 2006 "A Bigger Bang" tour.
The Black Rebel Motorcycle Club is a band I’ve seen bouncing around since "Howl," in 2005 and finally popped into my consciousness with their 2007 album "Baby 81," which had some unavoidably raucous drum kicks and guitar licks. As much as the band knows how to rock, they also have an appreciation for the slower ballads as well and that has stuck with them. The band’s versatility is clearly on display in "Beat the Devil’s Tattoo."
The first track and album namesake, "Beat the Devil’s Tattoo," starts off humbly with a classic western sound complete with an acoustic guitar riff and a kick and tambourine beat. Inviting us into a saloon like atmosphere where you can smell the whiskey and almost see the burly, bearded bikers at the bar. Once the dust settles from that track, "Conscience Killer," the next track, erupts into a real barn burner of boasting about all the things BRMC are going to do to you because they have no conscience. Following this, "Bad Blood" kicks back to a mid tempo and is filled out with hazy guitar lines reminiscent of U2 guitarist Edge’s work.
The band then pulls out some Led Zeppelin influence on the battle anthem dirge "War Machine," which has the most intimidating bass riff ever heard. Before things get too out of hand with all that aggression, the band reveals more of their well developed softer side on "Sweet Feeling," whose ample reverbed harmonies, gentle acoustic guitar and lighted touches of organ and harmonica could serve as a real rock ‘n’ roll lullaby. As a compliment to the feeling of lost loves on "Sweet Feeling," the following number "Evol" laments the process of being in love all over again.
Other highlights of the album include the fist pumping "Mama Taught Me Better Than That," "The Toll," a nice western style duet, the piano led "Long Way Down" and the 10-minute finale, "Half State," with pedal effects and riffs going off like fireworks until it smashes its way to its conclusion. "Beat The Devil’s Tattoo" might not push the "Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s" work into new unforeseen territory, but it does show them perfecting their recipe for rowdy rock-n-roll.