Black Rebel Motorcycle Club - Baby 81
Matt Harrold 02/04/2007
Yeeee Haw! The boys in black are once again rolling into town with their latest offering 'Baby 81', pulling up in clouds of dust under the midday sun to break out their guitars and pummel your ears till they bleed one more time. Gone are most of the acoustic, pseudo Dylan stylings and back in are the 'darker than thou' chugging guitar riffs, straining under their own droned-out weight whilst occasional psychedelic off-shoots threaten to tear a rift back to the late 60's. It seems the back porch's been left for the seedy, dank clubs with the amps plugged back in and all dials turned up to eleven.
So how does it feel? Well there's one word that springs to mind with the more open approach in the sonic whirlwind that is 'Baby 81' and that's commercial, although not in the crap out and out MOR of the Kaiser Chiefs. Opening track 'Took Out A Loan' lays that little demon to rest. With it's QOTSA off kilter riff and predatory bass line it lends the track the feeling that it could easily sound track the long panning shot of the stranger in town entering the local bar just before the usual fight kicks off. The reason it feels so damned commercial is the number of songs that are waiting to follow the political anger groove of 'Weapon of Choice' into the singles charts. 'Berlin' IS the aural equivalent of nails scratching down your back during some quite fantastic and dirty sex, probably because Peter Hayes is half the time threatening to "Um somebody", throw in a killer chorus asking "Suicide's easy, what happened to the revolution?" and you've got a song that's got the potential to both get into the top 10 and be banned at exactly the same time.
'All You Do Is Talk' is the slow burner of the album. It starts off in a soft cascade of harmonious organs while a faded guitar is occasionally plucked in the background to lend it a surreal gospel feeling. Though it soon bursts into a mixture of The Killers 'All These Things I've Done' and U2's 'Where The Streets Have No Name'. It's still firmly rooted in BRMC territory with Peter Hayes' vocals and one of the catchiest guitar riffs you're liable to hear all year. People will fall in love, lighters will be held aloof and scarily it shows that BRMC can do decent stadium rock whilst not ending up in banal territory unlike the aforementioned Kaiser Chiefs. Whilst the guitars of 'Lien On Your Dreams' with their stabs and thrusts hide some of the best lyrical rhyming to date on a BRMC album.
There's even the occasional hint that BRMC are willing to try out something different for themselves. From the mid-song jam found in 'American X', the true political/social track of the album. Robert Been is doing his best to tear his vocal chords apart during the chorus, sounding like that token homeless man who warns you about the end of the world being nigh. Though it's the lyrics in the verses which might make you shiver: "You share your young with the wolves of a nation/There's nothing left here, pray for salvation" sings Been, and with the current state of the world it's highly likely there'll be a shit load of praying to be done. Elsewhere in the albums other tracks are the newly introduced guitar solos, though they tend not to be very long in existence. They're a given with most other bands but a relatively new addition to the landscape of black leather and heeled boots.
As with most albums not every track is going to be a classic, nor even that good and with 'Baby 81' it's found in 'Cold Wind'. A by the numbers rocker which finds the rebels doffing their hats to the likes of the Vines when Peter starts to growl and scream like he's about to tear someones throat out. Still, one duff track out of thirteen is pretty good odds for any band. As end track 'Am I Only' winds down you're left with the impression that commercial isn't all that bad. In fact from the sound of 'Baby 81' it rocks with all pistons firing as the pedal is put to the metal.