Under Review: Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – Beat The Devil’s Tattoo

Sometime around the release of Baby 81, I learned that the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s lead singer, Peter Hayes, used to be one of the many guitarists in the neo-psychedelic community that is The Brian Jonestown Massacre.  Suddenly, a lot of BRMC’s own music made sense.  While the trio always favored a kind of rave-up Americana flavor, the band’s frequent ventures into noise experiments and flanged freakouts set them apart both from the garage rock and jam band scenes.  Prior to this year, the Club’s most recent album was a self-released collection of instrumentals, The Effects Of 333.  Though it’s only essential for BRMC completists (and I’m sure there are some out there), the record showed that the trio were still willing to step outside the blues-punk mold.  The band’s new (proper) album is Beat The Devil’s Tattoo, and it sums up all that’s beautiful and ugly about garage rock.  Beat The Devil’s Tattoo was recorded (in Philadelphia!) with Hayes, bassist Robert Been and new drummer Leah Shapiro, best known as the impressively forceful live timekeeper on The RaveonettesLust Lust Lust tour.  The album is as eclectic a work as any of the BRMC’s albums, incorporating the sprawl of Baby 81 (“Bad Blood”), the acoustic-led stomp of Howl (the raga-ish title track), and the flat-out rawk of their debut (“Evol,” “Mama Taught Me Better”).

There are a few more indulgent moments on Beat The Devil’s Tattoo that, while they might try the patience of non-acolytes, are sure to wow devotees.  The maxed-out, lurching “War Machine” is the first instance of the album’s experimentation, and the tears-in-my-beer “The Toll” is another fine example.  Then there’s the 10-minute album-closer “Half-State.”  Strictly speaking, when it comes to modern rock n’ roll bands presenting uncommonly long songs, I usually lapse into the mindset of the infamous engineer who had to man the board during The Velvet Underground’s recording of the notorious “Sister Ray.”  His declaration of “I don’t have to listen to this” has often crossed my mind when I scan the song lengths of new albums.  “Half-State,” though, has to be one of the best songs on Beat The Devil’s Tattoo, mostly because the boys (and girl) keep their longest song to date exciting all the way through.  Though the BRMC’s albums will forever be in the long, dark shadow of Howl (for now, at least), Beat The Devil’s Tattoo is a strong addition to a most unusual band’s ever-growing repertoire.

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~ by E. on March 17, 2010.

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