Black Rebel Motorcycle Club Beat The Devils Tattoo(Vagrant) Buy it from Insound
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club makes rock music. It’s simple, it’s fuzzy, it’s not always that good but it’s always unmistakably them. They always sound confident even if they don’t know exactly who they are, and they always take themselves far too seriously for me to take them seriously at all. Beat the Devils Tattoo is the follow-up to 2009’s completely and utterly dismal instrumental affair The Effects of 333. They’ve made a return to the trajectory they were on in 2007 with Baby 81, trying to marry their Jesus and Mary Chain revivalist garage rock with the mediocre folk that cost them their record contract on 2005’s Howl.
The album follows the pattern of every other BRMC release (with the exception of their excellent eponymous debut): a few exceptional rock moments padded out by mediocre filler, ill advised left turns and painfully obvious attempts to sound badass, dark and brooding. Beat the Devils Tattoo has trimmed the filler a bit in comparison with previous albums but vastly increased the painfully obvious attempts at sounding badass. Just look at the song titles. War Machine, River Styx, Evol, hell even the album title screams “take us seriously, were rock stars and were brooding and angry.” Lines like “I’m a son of the night” (Conscious Killer) and “she’s a reckless lover with bloodstained hands (Aya, an otherwise pretty solid song) don’t make it any better.
Luckily, the lyrics are generally just bland. Given how serious they take themselves this probably isn’t intentional, but it serves the album well. They are generally buried under too much guitar and bass fuzz to notice or pay attention to them, and when they are obvious they fit with the music. Not everyone has something important to say, and even fewer know how to say it. Lyrics aren’t the focus here.
Musically, this is the best BRMC has sounded since their first record. It still doesn’t match the shoegazey garage rock of their early career, but it’s an all around solid rock album. War Machine is a stomping industrial blues song that is among their finest efforts. Aya, Mama Taught Me Better and the title track are also highlights. Generally speaking, the rest of the album never falls below mediocre; it’s never boring but sometimes forgettable. It occasionally loses momentum in its latter half, but it always gets it back. The only track that falls into mind-numbing territory is the closer, Half State, which clocks in at over ten minutes. They fell into the same trap on their last album, and it was just as obnoxious then.
Beat the Devils Tattoo is mostly enjoyable and mostly problem free. It’s their most consistent outing since their debut, but it’s never much better than average. BRMC is a decent rock band, and if all we expect from them is fuzzed out garage jams they don’t disappoint. If any more weight and scrutiny is forced on them than that (even if they desperately want it to be) they crumble under the pressure.15 March, 2010 - 19:49 — Andrew Baer