Album Reviews

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – Take Them On, On Your Own

(Virgin) UK release date: 25 August 2003


“Black Rebel Motorcycle Club” may be a bit of a mouthful but it aptly describes the vibe that this US trio created with their successful debut album. Named after Brando’s gang in The Wild One, this was a band dressed in black leather, who created music reeking of Harley Davidson exhaust smoke and whisky. The whisky in question was more likely to be Scottish single malt than bourbon, however, for BRMC’s sound was that of The Jesus And Mary Chain resurrected for the 21st century.

Second time around, and BRMC are proclaiming the same gospel. There is a comforting familiarity about opener and current single Stop’s deadpan vocal, distorted, down-tuned guitars and the low-end bass that is more of an earthquake than a rumble. If Stop is this album’s Spread Your Love, then the next track, Six Barrel Shotgun, is Whatever Happened To Our Rock ‘N’ Roll (Punk Rock Song) in barely-concealed disguise. That equates to a frenetic, driving rhythm, adrenalised, feedback-soaked guitars and the pseudo-psycho lyrics: “I’d kill you all but I need you so.” Charming.

If this all sounds as if BRMC’s music has not progressed much in two years, then you’d be right. However, when the songs are of as high quality as the two mentioned above, you can just about forgive them, close your eyes and revel in the morosity. In fact, if anything, the men in black only come unstuck when they try their hand at something really different. And I’m Aching is a case in point – a clumsy attempt at a ballad with an acoustic guitar and, whisper it gently, no feedback. Stick to the darkness boys, and leave the lighter shade of pale to those with polychromatic dress sense.

Having said all that, there are signs that BRMC are ponies with more than one trick in their saddles. Shade Of Blue reveals that The Jesus And Mary Chain isn’t the only British band they’ve been influenced by. With it’s swirling layers of guitar noise and dreamy harmonies, it wouldn’t be out of place on a compilation of early ’90s shoegazing music – do they really have Ride CDs in their collections? Whatever the case, it works and might just be an avenue they should wander down more often in the future.

Overall then, Take Them On, On Your Own generates mixed feelings. It is frequently classy, occasionally wearisome and probably a couple of songs too long. It finds BRMC waltzing after their debut album because it’s one small step forward and two larger ones to the side. That’ll do for now but let’s hope they tango a bit more on the next one.


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