Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
Beat the Devil’s Tattoo
By Chris Klepac
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club is nothing if not contrarian. After leaping onto the scene with 2001’s BRMC and getting crowned the new kings of shoegaze, the band took a hard left into boot-stomping back-porch blues (2005’s Howl) before releasing an all-instrumental album (The Effects of 333), which was greeted mostly with shrugs and head-scratches.
In between wrestling with their sound and struggling internally (original drummer Nick Jago is out again after a rocky reunion), BRMC has grown into a respectable middleweight rock act, and their new album, Beat the Devil’s Tattoo, is the most coherent record they have made to date.
All the band’s various tangents intersect here: Over the rustic balladry of “The Toll” floats an ominous strain of blurry feedback that almost but never quite breaks into snarl. “Shadow’s Keeper” disintegrates from a gritty bass-driven squaller that would have been at home on 2007’s Baby 81 into a sound not unlike a freight train derailing into a sheet metal factory.
Maybe the band’s career has finally smoothed out – Vagrant Records is supporting them and has given them the nod to self release Devil’s Tattoo, which benefits from the fresh air of new drummer (and part-time Ravonette) Leah Shapiro. Then again, maybe it just took five albums for the various pieces of the BMRC sound to make sense together.
The ubiquitous heavy reverb, too-cool vocal sneer and endless leather vampire menace can, admittedly, be wearying, and Beat the Devil’s Tattoo may not be a record you play every day, but if you crave that old-school evil rock band sleaze, BRMC has it in bucketfuls. Friday night’s Showbox gig is already sold out, and it’s bound to be a sea of red light, fake fog, and heavy, sweaty rock and roll.
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club play the Showbox at the Market on Friday, March 5 with The Whigs and The Hounds Below.