You know it’s time to get a new drummer when the one you’re using goes onstage to accept an award and is so wasted that instead of making an acceptance speech, he just stares silently at the audience for a full nine minutes.
Not that I’m judging, fuck, I think it’s brilliant! Even though it happened way back at the 2003 NME Awards, when the infamous Black Rebel Motorcycle Club drummer Nick Jago went onstage to accept the Best Video award, the story refuses to die. It was a perfect ‘fuck you’ moment in rock and roll history and one that perfectly defines this band.
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club have been around a good ten years, during which time they’ve recorded six studio albums, all of which, in my humble opinion, have been surprisingly excellent.
There’s just something about this band’s garage rock meets blues meets psychedelic 70s rock meets folk revival that really speaks to me and always has.
Put it this way, if you’re looking for music to drink whisky to while you drown the memories of the last beautiful and bad-hearted woman who crossed your path, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club is the band for you.
Needless to say, I have every album they ever recorded (except the instrumental one, The Effects of 333, I don’t do instrumental albums, they creep me out) including one of my favourite albums of all time, the masterpiece that was 2005’s Howl. It’s loaded with more references to the Devil than a Quaker sermon, but hot damn! You know you’re onto something good when the first line sung is “Time won’t save our souls…”
The new album, in a lot of ways is more of the same. They had to cut Jago loose a second time and they replaced him with a girl (Leah Shapiro, formerly of The Ravonettes) but she sure as hell doesn’t play like a girl.
What you’ll find on this album is the same mixture of hedonistic, booze and drug fuelled old school rock that this band has made a name for themselves playing. There are no major curveballs on this album, there are no ‘what the fuck was that?’ moments and I’m totally fine with that because there’s enough depth and song writing skill in BRMC to keep things interesting without having to reinvent the wheel.
Let’s be honest for a moment here, how could you not love a song like “Conscience Killer” (track 2) which drives like a Royal Enfield and has the lines “I’m a fine line teaser / Never been nothing but a cheater / I’m a son of the night / Give me a little room and I’ll spit in your eye.”
“River Styx”, with it’s snaking bassline is also instantly likeable. It oozes evil as it slinks through the shadows of Hayes’ droning vocals and the sick, grinding tones of his squealing guitar riffs. It’s a masterpiece of sleaze.
But you’ll find quieter moments on this album as well, reminiscent of Howl. Tracks like the gospel / revival folk ballads “Sweet Feeling” and “The Toll” prove that there’s a lot more to this band than a bunch of songs it’s fun to get roaring drunk to.
Singer and frontman Peter Hayes’ voice has changed a lot over the years and you can hear it on a track like “Sweet Feeling” where his voice effortlessly hits five or six notes, clear as a bell in one sustained legato.
Of course there are a couple of duds which mar this otherwise great album – “War Machine” and “Half-State” for example, both of which insomniacs the world over should be grateful for – but it is very seldom that an album is without duds.
My rule of thumb is this – if an album has four killer tracks on it or more, you’ve got your money’s worth which is exactly what you’ll get with Beat The Devil’s Tattoo. It isn’t going to win any major awards, it isn’t going to make a huge or lasting impression in most people’s lives, BUT it is going to make a great companion the next time a girl fucks you up and like a good friend, it will tell you what a bitch she was and party with you till you’re good and drunk.
Final verdict: 8/10