Seventeen years ago, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club announced themselves with their fantastic debut, B.R.M.C. It wasn’t just a celebrated album – it had some critics calling the band “revolutionaries” because they were making psychedelic and garage rock relevant once again. Maybe the term was unfairly applied to the Los Angeles-based trio, but it was clear Peter Hayes (vocals/guitar), Robert Levon Been (vocals/bass/guitar), and Leah Shapiro (drums) were revivalists. Fast forward to 2018, and the questions about rock’s place in today’s music landscape have returned. And once again, BRMC provide an emphatic answer with their eighth studio album, Wrong Creatures.
Unlike some of their more experimental efforts (Howl, The Effects of 333) and the mournful Specter at the Feast, Wrong Creatures is unmistakably Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. The album doesn’t necessarily transform psychedelic and garage rock, but it is a return to form for the veteran outfit. More importantly, it reaffirms that rock ‘n roll is alive and well, and there will always be a place for a fine rock record.
Although coming in at under 2 minutes and largely an instrumental, album opener “DFF” offers a hint of what is to come with its dark and foreboding approach. It leads into two harrowing, classic rockers in “Spook” and “King of Bones”, which could be featured on episodes of Black Mirror with their fantasy-like and otherworldly storytelling. It is on the slow-building blazer, “Ninth Configuration”, where the album’s theme comes into focus, as BRMC take us into a post-apocalyptic world that feels like the deserts that occupied Army of Darkness. Meanwhile, the brooding and sinister “Questions of Faith”, is the mind of a captive in this place who seeks answers to his seclusion.
While the record is darker than their past efforts, “Little Thing Gone Wild” offers a reminder of what BRMC once was – a fiery, unrelenting rock band that knew how to get the adrenaline flowing. The deep bass lines and the throbbing drumming set the stage for this sonic hurricane. But on the opposite end of the spectrum are “Haunt” and “Echo”, which prove that BRMC can still innovate and offer something tantalizingly refreshing. An air of mystery and ethereal mist creep through the verses and chorus of “Haunt”, which then transforms into a heavy fog of reverb and chilling harmonies. The latter surprises with a melodic and sweet tone before it turns into a soaring and dazzling cinematic number. The track makes you want to live the moments proclaimed by Been in the chorus.
“I don’t wanna run.
I don’t wanna hide.
All I’ve ever known echoes why.
Listen to the well.
Listen to the ground.
I just wanna fade under the sound.”
And for nearly an hour, one can fall into this new dimension in Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s discography. For us to fade into the excellence of a veteran band still fighting to be recognized among the great psychedelic rock bands in history. And as one of the great rock bands, period. Although Wrong Creatures doesn’t shake up the rock landscape, it does remind us that the best music still remains those driven by a fiery guitar, bone-jarring rhythms, and a band with a story to tell. Only the truly great groups can do this.
Wrong Creatures is out now via Vagrant Records. Black Rebel Motorcycle’s massive tour kicks off today, commencing with 6 weeks across North America before heading to Australia and Europe. Dates and information are available here.
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