Sound: With an expansive career that first began in 2001, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club have been known for their bare bones alternative rock that tends to ride rollercoasters, not waves, when it comes to pace. Similar to previous records like Baby 81, the group's latest offering takes their trademark style and wraps it up into a diabolical blues rock casing full of poetic angst. Beat The Devil's Tattoo isn't meant to be included in an indie rock admirer's collection and the opening tracks justify that. "Conscience Killer" opens the album with a bevy of primal melodic howls that introduce singer/guitarist Peter Hayes and his raspy vocals that sweat with a bit 1970s' American punk rock. With the groovy yet grunge-infested "Bad Blood", the two tracks could easily be handpicked as some of the band's best work in their career, but what makes it ideal for this record is the fact it flows with the rest of the material found on Beat The Devil's Tattoo.
Along with living by the words "fast" and "hard", Black Rebel Motorcycle Club portray a blues-rock side of their personality as well with numbers such as "War Machine" and "Sweet Feeling". The former dives into the deep-end of industrial rock, echoing The Dead Weather while the latter lightens the mood with a nostalgic blues song powered by Hayes' weary and honest voice. Unlike the band's other releases, the record strives by the fact each song ties into each other, manifesting a dramatic flow that's rare in most works issued by artists. The pace undeniably changes most of the time from track to track, but is backed by an alternative rock spine built from modern blues and the traditional sound that defines Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. // 8
Lyrics: The group's sixth album marks the loss of drummer Nick Jago and it's evident in the lyrics crafted by the remaining members of the band. Throughout the opening first half of the album, Hayes sings about the demons they hope to exercise with the record and references to the departure of Jago. Personal matters aside, the songwriting tends to stray from the band's former material and takes an asbtract approach. With blues-noise rock shattering the atmosphere of the record, Hayes' vocals take a grungy tone that accents his creative lyrics about a modern and mysterious woman on "Aya".
But what truly shines is the way Hayes is able to manipulate his emotions and produce vocals that tie in with the mood of every track. Although his voice isn't as defined and noticeable like artists such as Jack White or Alison Mosshart, Hayes uses his character to impress with melodies that are nostalgic ("Long Way Down") and booming with garage rock ("Mama Taught Me Better"). // 8
Overall Impression: Black Rebel Motorcycle have seen the positives and negatives from critics as they have released a few albums over the last decade that have been tortured with poor ratings, but Beat The Devil's Tattoo is bound to entertain. It may not be cluttered with memorable lyrics and hooks, but its collective sound of blues, alternative and garage rock creates unique melodies that keep heads bobbing and feet tapping. With the loss of a past friend and fellow musician, the group hopes to continue on in the right path by breaking boundaries that have restricted them in the past.
With a few more barriers to break, it will be interesting to see if Black Rebel Motorcycle Club can conquer a few more obstacles to fully explore and display their creativity and talent as rock artists. // 8
- Joshua Khan (c) 2010