Specter At The Feast review by Black Rebel Motorcycle Club

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  • Released: Mar 18, 2013
  • Sound: 8
  • Lyrics: 7
  • Overall Impression: 7
  • Reviewer's score: 7.3 Good
  • Users' score: 8.1 (30 votes)
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club: Specter At The Feast

Sound — 8
This is the seventh studio album in BRMC's 15 year career, meaning they are averaging roughly one new studio album every two years which is a pretty good rate for new material. The band was formed in 1998 by Robert Levon Been (bassist and son of Michael Been from The Call) and Peter Hayes, guitarist, after they met in high school. This was shortly after Peter Hayes left his former band, The Brian Jonestown Massacre. From there they were joined by Nick Jago on drums who over the years has had a tendency to be in and out of the band due to personal issues and disagreements with Robert and Peter. Since 2008 Nick Jago has been replaced by Leah Shapiro, previously the touring drummer for The Raveonettes. The album has 12 tracks and a total runtime of just under a full hour. The first single off of the album was a cover of a track by Robert's father's band The Call, the 1989 hit single "Let The Day Begin". They released this track as a free download from their website, and have also released a "Let The Day Begin" EP which includes the track of the same name as well as the track "Returning" from this album. This EP has also been streaming on their official website. A lot of the songs on the album were written as a way of mourning the loss of Michael Been, Robert's father, who died backstage after a concert in 2010 from a heart attack. Michael Been played vocals and guitar for the band The Call, but in addition to that and being Robert Levon Been's father, he was also the band's live sound engineer, assisted in the production of their albums and was the band's mentor. For those who haven't heard BRMC's music before it isn't an easy sound to describe. It really reminds me (at times) a lot of a certain electric blues duo who have had a lot of success in recent years, except BRMC is covering a wider territory of sound as well as coming off as more put together. At other times it reminds me of some of the alt. Rock and grunge bands of the early 90's. From song to song the guitar goes from strong blues based riffing to a miasma of pleasant noise, often with a strong dose of fuzz. The bass and drums are constantly pummeling the songs forward, and when the guitar goes off into left field for short excursions the bass-line does a great job holding the songs together. Leah Shapiro did an excellent job on the drums and they are also mixed very well.

Lyrics — 7
Peter and Robert swap off lead vocals, and occasionally sing in harmony. They both tend to have the type of vocal delivery that I associate with a few other bands where the vocals are almost slightly slurred but with a very raw edge. One of the two of them also provides a vocal delivery that is very reminiscent of Thom Yorke on some tracks, but I don't know if it is Peter or Robert. Their vocals fit with the music really well, and by the second listen I found myself singing along to a few of the songs. They seem to have found the perfect division of labor for the vocals. The lyrics, as with the music on this album, tend to get into some pretty melancholy areas. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it is one of those things that I personally have to be in the mood to listen to. To demonstrate what I mean, here are a few lyrics from the track "Lullaby": "Why won't you see/ you are an arm I can't reach/ you are the words I can't speak" and then "You twist the light in your hands/ losing thoughts so you move/ you can't give/ reasons fall from every storm that you lived/ we move through the dark, helpless". Then from the song "Returning" you have: "A part of you is ending/ a part of you holds on/ and here's your life suspended/ cradled by the sun", then "You hide yourself inside your world/ even someone else/ but you must leave and not turn back/ knowing what you hold/ how much time have we got left/ it's killing us". Not all of the lyrics are this melancholy (and again, nothing necessarily wrong with melancholy lyrics except you have to be in the right mood to hear them), but a good of the album is pretty melancholy. With that said, the writing is still phenomenal.

Overall Impression — 7
BRMC is tapped into a very interesting muse and I have really enjoyed listening to where it takes them. The album does seem to have a more melancholy sound than their previous releases, but this is to be expected after the death of the band's mentor, Robert's father. My favorite songs on the album are "Firewalker", "Hate The Taste" and "Let The Day Begin". My least favorite song is "Lullaby" just because that is a pretty huge dose of melancholy to swallow. Overall, this album fits nicely in with BRMC's previous efforts. It is a solid release filled with mostly solid songs and a few that stand out rather nicely. A few of the songs are more melancholy than I am usually in the mood for, but I might disagree with myself on that statement tomorrow. I would definitely suggest this album to both BRMC fans and to those new to their music.

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6 comments sorted by best / new / date

    This album is really strong! I always suggest BRMC to people that haven't heard of them. Very good band and an even better live band! Definitely give their back catalog a listen and see them live!
    Having been a devotee of "Howl" and "Baby 81" for some time, when I first heard "Specter at the feast" I (mistakenly) thought it was not as strong an album. Turn it up loud and immerse yourself completely in this multi-faceted masterpiece, it's a real gem.
    "One of the two of them also provides a vocal delivery that is very reminiscent of Thom Yorke on some tracks, but I don't know if it is Peter or Robert." Brandon, which songs are you thinking of where you feel this way? I've been a fan of BRMC for a very long time, and I could definitely provide that information for you.
    He's talking about the vocals on "Lose Yourself". When I saw BRMC in December they closed with the song and Robert sang the entire song.