Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – Wrong Creatures – VINYL 2LP


2 in stock


BRMC’s eighth album continues to prop up the rock-historical establishment. It offers more of the same, but at least it’s more of the same in a fairly compelling way.

In the 1953 film The Wild One, a woman asks Marlon Brando’s character, “What are you rebelling against, Johnny?” He takes a quick moment to consider the question, then responds, “Whadda you got?” Black Rebel Motorcycle Club took their name from Brando’s biker gang in that film, but they also took their unfocused defiance as well. Even on their 2001 debut they were as much a stance as a sound, both of which were rooted deep in the past, not only old counterculture flicks but old rock’n’roll as well: the Velvet Underground, Suicide, Ride, the Jesus & Mary Chain. Since then they’ve hissed and shaken fists at the establishment, each album a carefully calibrated pose of rebellion based largely on past examples. But they’re so musically conservative that it’s impossible to be truly defiant; they’re too busy propping up the rock-historical establishment to break free of anything in any meaningful way.

On one hand, they understand that their bundle of musical reference points and the poses they’ve been striking all mean something different at different points in time. That hasn’t made Black Rebel Motorcycle Club any less predictable, but it does give their music some much-needed heft. On the other hand, their “Whadda you got?” attitude means they’ve never really engaged very closely with any particular historical moment they’ve lived through; their rebellion remains general and unspecified. Even during the Bush era, when artists were looking to the past to comment on the present, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club wrote songs that were too vague, too wishy-washy carry any real subversive power. This is a band that actually had a tune simply called “U.S. Government.”

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club have built a long career more on spit and perseverance than on vision, and with nearly 20 years behind them, they’ve become a thing of the past themselves: a historical influence, a rock touchstone. Perhaps that’s their final form, their intended destination. Despite it sounding exactly how you’d expect, the fact that they are releasing their eighth album in 2018 is a respectable accomplishment in and of itself, especially when you consider the tribulations they’ve faced just over the past decade: the backstage death of bassist Robert Levon Been’s father in 2010 and, more recently, the slow yet determined recovery of drummer Leah Shapiro from a Chiari malformation that affected her balance and rhythm.


Wrong Creatures is, of course, more of the same, but at least it’s more of the same in a fairly compelling way. The guitars still shriek and moan, the drums still pound out steady trance rhythms, and Hayes and Been still sing with a sneering detachment that makes it all too easy to ignore their lyrics. Some songs are ridiculous for familiar reasons: “Little Thing Gone Wild” sounds like turn-of-the-century garage rock, a slightly slowed down Vines, but at least it doesn’t perpetuate old-school sexual politics like that title seems to indicate. Other songs are ridiculous for new and refreshing reasons: “Circus Bazooko” tiptoes around the fairway on a trippy music-box organ riff that’s silly rather than sinister.

There are no big new ideas on Wrong Creatures, but there are enough small new ideas to give the album its own identity within their catalog. In particular, Hayes frequently uses his guitar to puncture the band’s minor-key drones with compact riffs or random asides, as though having a conversation with himself. The album is lousy with anthems, and one benefit of their plodding tempos is that those rousing moments sound earned. “Echo” opens with a bassline like someone’s faint memory of “Walk On the Wild Side,” and it ends up sounds like any given Coldplay tune from the 2000s. To their immense credit, the band is equally unapologetic about both reference points, which makes “Echo” the most startling and satisfying song on the album.

They can’t muster the same rousing energy on “Calling Them All Away,” and by the time they get to closer “All Rise,” the climactic push sounds scripted, obvious, rote—ending the album with a thud. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club don’t sound like a band winding things down on Wrong Creatures. While they’re not radically altering their own musical DNA, they are still in their own way trying to figure out what they can and cannot do. While that probably sounds like a backhanded compliment for these rock‘n’roll veterans, it might actually be the secret to their longevity. Maybe they’ll even figure out what they’re rebelling against.

Additional information
Weight 650 g


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