Monday, April 8, 2013 review...

Specter at the Feast

Specter at the Feast

By Black Rebel Motorcycle Club

Abstract Dragon
7 / 10
8th April 2013
By Courtney Sanders

Bands rarely exist in a vacuum. Like most creatives, their output – and success – reflects the social and political circumstances of their time. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club released their debut, self titled album in 2001. A myriad Brit pop and new wave imitators (and of course, Nickelback) had - for the most part - left a void of qualitative independent music in their wake, thus the time was ripe for an artist to commandeer the imagination of a generation. Enter a bunch of five, skinny jean-wearing dudes who released an album you may or may not have heard of, Is This It and spurned a worldwide, alt-rock revival that took the likes of Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Franz Ferdinand, The Libertines, Bloc Party and – to a lesser extent - Black Rebel Motorcycle Club along for one hell of a ride.

More than a decade on and both bands dropped studio albums in the same month: The Strokes’ awkwardly titled Comedown Machine and B.R.M.C’s Specter at the Feast. The latter was released on the band’s own label imprint – Abstract Dragon – with nary a whisper, undoubtedly finding a home in an audience who have always admired the band but hardly courting a new one, which makes sense: B.R.M.C have always skirted the edge of the garage rock blow-up, wholeheartedly adored by an acceptable-sized audience but never garnering mainstream attention for an album. Their inability to truly break is down to their output: each of their records is a compilation of both excellent songs and duds that collectively fail to ignite the imagination of the masses, and Specter at the Feast is another example of this.

‘Fire Walker’ opens proceedings with watery, atmospheric guitar and synthesizers, dropping into the kind of sexy, stoned ballad the band excel at, and sets things up for typically B.R.M.C single ‘Let the Day Begin’ – think B.R.M.C’s ‘What Ever Happened To My Rock and Roll’ or Baby 81’s ‘Weapon of Choice’. Leah Shapiro’s (previously of The Raveonettes) drumming has been criticized in the past but it’s one of this albums most impressive facets: she subtly accentuates basic tempos while seamlessly fitting into every given melody. Singles like the aforementioned ‘Let The Day Begin’ actually abound across Specter at the Feast. Tracks four, five and six are breathless, energetic affairs but then the eighth track does what most B.R.M.C albums do at some point: replaces any momentum with clunky, philosophizing lyrical sentiments and short-lived sonic experiments.

It feels unfair to criticize a band that consistently deliver excellent singles true to a succinct and ongoing aesthetic, regardless of changes to the sound of the day, but perhaps there’s the rub? There’s something in that title, Specter at the Feast: B.R.M.C create music in a removed, ghost-like fashion. Perhaps if they further engaged with their surroundings they would be able to deliver a definitive album that - like Is This It - captures the imagination of a generation for forty minutes instead of four-and-a-half.

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