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Monday, March 8, 2010

BRMC's Trick Works Much Better This Round

Posted By on Mon, Mar 8, 2010 at 8:18 AM

  • Tessa Angus
Looking back through the corrective lenses of retrospect and time, it wasn't very fair the way we went about this business of king making. In defense, it was pretty bleak at the onset of the last decade. Nu-metal lunkheads lurked around every corner and the skeletons of boy bands littered the landscape. Meanwhile, across the pond, Travis was just giving birth to Coldplay. It was a scary time. We were all quite desperate. So, when Black Rebel Motorcycle Club came along with its loud riffs, thundering drums, and disaffected disposition, it was all a-fucking-board that train.

Ten years later, and, as BRMC goes, it's obvious that a) we were initially dazzled to the point of blindness, and b) The poor bastards never had a chance. It's amazing the band didn't buckle from the sheer weight of our expectations, especially in light of the fact that the band members were out of fresh ideas by the second album. Unfortunately nobody noticed till the fourth one, and by the time Baby 81 rolled around, not only was the thrill gone, but the trio's sonic palate (psych blues, drug-lite noise pop, Zep IV) and themes (revolution, deliverance, evil/redemption) had an entirely paint-by-numbers sheen. 2008's instrumental disaster The Effects of 333 served notice that BRMC was officially in over its head.

So, what a pleasant surprise Beat the Devil's Tattoo turns out to be. Which isn't to suggest that the band has broken any new ground, cuz, frankly, this album plays like a mixed bag of its previous work. The field hand-stomp of the title cut could've been an outtake from Howl, while "Evol" reaches back to the Jesus and Mary Chain vibe of BRMC's first album, and the mid-tempo raunch of "Aya" could've been one of Baby 81's better cuts. The heavy nods of T. Rex, Led Zeppelin, and the Creation Records back catalogue are all still there. No, what makes Tattoo click is that it's well written. It's mostly free of the obvious clichés and ham-fisted misfires of the past couple outings. For the first time ever, BRMC has made a thoroughly enjoyable album that sounds as consistently bad-ass as the band wishes to be seen as by the world.

In the end, BRMC is predictable. It's a big, lumbering band that writes big, lumbering numbers, built for maximum rocking, even if the themes are well-worn and sometimes dumb. While the group might be a one-trick pony, that isn't such a bad thing, providing you don't saddle that horse with all your hopes for rock salvation. And with Devil's Tattoo, BRMC fully embraces the possibility that its one trick can be a pretty fucking good one.

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club performs on Tuesday, March 9, and Wednesday, March 10, at Slim's.

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John O'Neill


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