Sunday, March 17, 2013 review...



by Raul Stanciu
March 17th, 2013 

Review Summary: Black Rebel Motorcycle Club pouring their hearts into one strong effort.

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club returned after a couple of quiet years with their 7th studio record, Specter At The Feast. The death of Michael Been back in 2010 in the middle of the tour was a huge loss for the band. For those unaware of his connection with them, he was bassist Robert's father, mentor, producer and a live sound technician, going on tour with them. After such a tragic event, BRMC recorded this as a tribute to Been and a way to rid the pain.

Musically, Specter At The Feast marks a slight return to the dense, less filtered shoegaze/garage rock sound of their first two records, B.R.M.C. and Take Them On, On Your Own. There are no country folk outings, the band focusing more in creating a cohesive unit. This way, each song feels cut from the same cloth, instead of trying to check each style tackled with over the course of a decade. As expected, given the uneasy background, Robert's songs are mostly mournful and more settled, however, guitar player Peter Hayes balances the record, providing most of heavy tunes.

There are a lot of enjoyable moments on the album and right from the beginning, the haunting "Fire Walker" with its movie soundtrack-like, lengthy intro, immerses the listener in Black Rebel Motorcycle Club's dismal universe. The chemistry between Been and Hayes is more intact than ever, the former providing the backbone of the song and the latter usually enriching it. The two have been improving their "communication" skills for over a decade now and with the help of the straightforward, steady rock drumming of Leah Shapiro, have managed to establish a sound of their own.

While Robert's compositions are, as mentioned, more subdued and attention demanding, Hayes' ones include some of his, and subsequently the band's, best moments in a long time. "Hate The Taste" is a slick rocker with an infectious verse delivery and a groovy bass line. It has the necessary swag to live up to the band's own name, a characteristic rarely heard lately. Same goes with the dry, slow burner "Sell It" that builds up from a low bass line and several distorted guitar washes to a wall of noise towards the end. The guys let out their demons, becoming one of the hardest songs BRMC have recorded yet. Also, "Funny Games" with its' crushing finale and the high-octane "Teenage Disease", which brings to mind "Six Barrel Shotgun" from Take Them On, On Your Own, featuring some cool, raucous vocals are another couple of standouts. On the opposite end, "Sometimes The Light" is a pristine, organ-led ballad with gospel leanings, that sounds really beautiful. It has to be their most effective non-country ballad since Howl's "Open Invitation".

Been has his share of highlights too, consisting mainly of the album closer, "Lose Yourself", which might be the most nostalgic and honest song Black Rebel Motorcycle Club have penned yet. Robert's humble croon matches perfectly the lovely, dreamy guitars, ending Specter On The Feast on an equal haunting note as started. There isn't much variation, the song acting instead more like a requiem, keeping the same eerie vibe throughout. A more positive tune is The Call cover "Let The Day Begin", a direct tribute to his father, as he fronted the respective band. Still, BRMC give it a personal touch, successfully converting it to their sound.

In the end, Specter At The Feast is one of the strongest overall efforts released by Black Rebel Motorcycle Club so far. It comes across as a mature record, unfortunately marred by the tragic loss of Michael Been, yet the band managed to pour their hearts into it, getting the best out of the situation. The songs are all solid at the very least and there are various highlights that stand up high in their catalog. Also, it can be a pleasant starting point for newcomers and offers enough variety for old fans to sink in.