Nearly a decade on from their phenomenal debut album, Black Rebel Motorcycl Club show no signs of running out of steam, on the contrary, while others that arrived with them in 2001 continue to twiddle their thumbs in the studio or pursue other projects, they’re pushing on and still waving the rock n’ roll flag for America. To their credit, they haven’t pulled a Kings Of Leon and sold their souls to the corporate devil at the expense of their credibility and artistic moral.
BRMC are one of few bands in recent years to actually put out material that’s arguably as good as their debut. They say you have your entire life to write your first album, but then 12 months to write the follow up. BRMC’s second LP, Take Them On, On Your Own, as good as it is, admittedly may be their weakest, but it was their third album ‘Howl‘, where they found their true voice. They’d honed their sound to perfection and stripped things down to the basics with acoustics and organs, all making for a raw sounding, modern classic crammed with sweet melodies. Its one that definitely sits comfortably alongside their debut. This showed that the band were far from being a one trick pony and had plenty more tricks up their sleeve, as also evident on new album, Beat The Devil’s Tattoo.
What we’ve essentially ended up with on this record is a best of BRMC, in the shape of new songs of course. Drawing from the strengths of their previous albums, the album sounds like a journey through the highlights of BRMC’s back catalogue. Lead single for example, Beat The Devils Tattoo, wouldn’t have sounded out of place on Howl, with its acoustic riff-driven build up into an explosive, sing-along refrain, echoing Elbow’s Grounds For Divorce.
Conscience Killer and Mama Taught Me Better provide the album’s more aggressive moments that hark back to the sound of their debut. Nobody at the moment seems to do traditional, stripped down, rock n’ roll as well as BRMC do, as demonstrated on these tracks. Some of their ideas may not be anything particularly new and are definitely quite similar to older material, but this doesn’t take away from the enjoyment of these songs that are screaming to be turned up to 11. War Machine is the album’s only slightly dud track, it just doesn’t seem to go anywhere, plodding along without any purpose.
Recording a song that breaks the 5 minute barrier doesn’t always work, unless that song lends itself well to being particularly long, which final track, Half-State, certainly does. Its the record’s crowning moment, and what a way to close an album. Void of any obvious chorus, each verse gently crawls towards the same looped note, with the ‘wah-wah’ guitar pedal in full effect and Meg White style drum bashing. Its the album’s ‘American X‘, and is just as good. Air-guitar virgins be warned, this song will be the the one that takes your cherry.
This album really does go full circle, kicking off in anthemic fashion, then leading us through some softer moments such as The Toll and Sweet Feeling, which unusually for the band feature a female vocalist, Courtney Jaye. Broken up with a couple of signature stomper’s of old, it then winds up with the epic Half-State. Its produced with a rawness prevalent on much of their previous material; fancy trimmings not included, just balls to the wall rock n’ roll.
Beat The Devils Tattoo is probably the most well-balanced and complete BRMC record, a consistency that makes this an attention grabber from start to finish. It does take a bit more time to get into than some of their previous efforts, but with patience you’ll fall in love with it just as I did. Lyrically, the album is not exactly Shiny Happy People, but how many BRMC songs are? moody is what they do, and they do it oh so well.