Saturday, March 13, 2010 says...

Posted by therockdoc

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s latest record is like a hurricane of sound: it’s a relentless noise storm of thunderous guitar, boom-clap drums and ominous lyrics.  But at the eye of the storm, the album is dark, bluesy folk with spiritual rhetoric.  It has a heaven-and-hell, good-versus-evil dichotomy; lyrics full of desperation, affliction and sin ride on crests of crashing guitar and drums.

From song titles (such as “River Styx”) and the album’s own name (“Beat the Devil’s Tattoo”), BRMC does little to hide their theme.

However, the band does cloak their folk-centered style with psychedelia, blues and garage rock.  “Beat the Devil’s Tattoo” gushes with the normal guitar fuzz of their past albums, but never before has it had such a heavy presence.  Combine it with lead singer Robert Levon Been’s resolute voice and words, and the music has a sort of enrapturing mysticism.

Been, along with guitarist/vocalist Peter Hayes and drummer Leah Shapiro, wrote a tight record that maintains its motifs from song to song.  It’s even more cohesive than “Baby 81,” their extraordinary 2007 record that featured hits like “Berlin” and “Weapon of Choice.”

BRMC puts together an unforgettable storm: they captivate on the title track, an anthem reminiscent of Johnny Cash’s later works. Folk balladry and religious undertones pave the way before the track morphs into a haunting processional:

Your soul is able, death is all you cradle
Sleepin’ on the nails, there’s nowhere left to fall
You have admired, what every man desires
Everyone is king when there’s no one left to pawn

Later, on “River Styx,” the band is mesmerizing.  It’s an awesomely dark concoction: one part greasy southern rock-strut, one-part blues hymnal soul that sizzles into a sinister trance.
BRMC’s throttles up on “Conscience Killer,”

a muscle flex of the garage psychedelia akin to Aussie trio The Vines with a groove that hints at Jet.
“Bad Blood” and “Evol” even reach the sonic plateau of Radiohead: undulating tidal waves that swell and crash with might.

But BRMC is really in their element when they unload.  The storm really gets a brewin’ on pummeling tracks like “Mama Taught Me Better,” “War Machine,” “Shadow’s Keeper” and the 10-minute opus “Half State”—churners with guitar riptides that pull and never let go.

And on “Mama Taught Me Better,” Been himself seems taken by the storm he’s helped to create:

Can you see a world you have never felt
When you sleep the nightmare becomes yourself
But it just takes so much to make you sick when your heart’s a bullet
But if you could fill some lead in me you would pass through it

From the violent waves of sound, hazy swirl of guitar and hammering rhythms, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s latest record is a whirlwind.  But if you can weather the storm, you’re in for one hell of a ride.