Monday, April 15, 2013 review

by João Cordeiro on April 12, 2013 
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club's Specter at the Feast

  • Abstract Demon
  • Vagrant
Release date  March 18, 2013
2010 was a bittersweet year for the San Francisco trio Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. While promoting their new album, Beat the Devil's Tattoo (the first one with Leah Shapiro, the former Raveonettes, drumming), the band was haunted by the death of Michael Been, the producer, sound technician of the band, but most importantly, the father of the bassist Robert Levon Been. Specter at the Feast, then shows a band that never really recovered from that lost, and because of that, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club released the most introspective album of their not-so-distinguished-and-acclaimed career.

Specter at the Feast is then, not necessarily the album Black Rebel Motorcycle Club wanted to follow Beat the Devil's Tattoo, but the album that had to happen due to circumstances of life.

Not everything worked out fine on this new effort. Even though the band always brought their fashion sense into music, this all black dressed fuzzy rock and roll; bassy and dark garage rock, being introspective seems a little bit salty water for these river fishes.

Even being a competent opener, "Fire Walker" never explodes as an opening track should. The urgency, the feeling of "here we are again" it is not there. We can only feel that when The Call's cover (the most known song of Michael Been's band) "Let the Day Begin" finally starts. And for all that this song means, it really should be opening Specter at the Feast.

And if "Let the Day Begin" really fits the common and known sound of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, songs like "Returning", "Some Kind of Ghost", "Sometimes the Light" and "Lose Yourself" brings them to a field where they, clearly, don't feel comfortable. While attempting to sound deep and meaningful, the band can only achieve Snow Patrol-Coldplay-esque shallow and meaningless lyrics upon generic music background.

Happily, this sexy, almost badassery soundtrack with songs like "Whatever Happened to My Rock 'n' Roll (Punk Song)", "Six Barrel Shotgun", "US Government", "Weapon of Choice", "War Machine", etc, which made Black Rebel Motorcycle Club loved by so many, is not lost. Even sounding a Beatle-esque ballad, "Lullaby" begins a sequence of some of the best Black Rebel Motorcycle Club songs to date, and definitely, one of the best sequences of songs of the year.

"Hate the Taste" (despite the autopilot drumming by Shapiro), "Rival" and "Teenage Disease" are exactly what we expect from them.  What we expect from a band that gets its name from such a badass movie like Brando's The Wild One. And even if slowed down by "Funny Games" and by the incredibly-not-the-closer-track "Sell It", Specter at the Feast is saved from being a total wreck, especially, if the band went for the initial idea of releasing a double LP – this two songs work as the perfect example of how the band can sound deep, dark, slow, while still maintaining its meaning.

Overall, in the end, there's this feeling of untapped talent. Again, Specter at the Feast is much more about something that had to be done, phantoms that had to be exorcised, rather than a forceful and exciting rock and roll album, from one of the most forceful, exciting and energetic rock and roll bands of our times.