Music Reviews
Wrong Creatures

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club Wrong Creatures

(Vagrant) Rating - 6/10

Seventeen years ago, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club came into the scene with a blistering form of garage rock that sounded like a nonconformist response to New York City’s rebirth of cool. The leather-clad San Francisco trio even posed concerns about the future of rock n’ roll with plain directness on their first single, Whatever Happened to My Rock N’ Roll, a sentiment that will continue to be engrained in rock purists’ heads until they accept that it’s been going through different permutations since the seventies. But the answer to that question was, of course, them. Not because they necessarily felt they brought anything new to reignite the genre, but that they had the necessary grit to follow its sketchy heritage.

Eight albums in, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club continue to provide a perfectly balanced amalgamation of rock history in Wrong Creatures. Their mission was always to coexist and not to form a common unity with their peers, after all, and they wear their influences with ease. And that toughness they show is still performed with rugged, yet sweet soul. Take Spook, for instance, a lusty anthem with bluesy touches where you can imagine singer Peter Hayes curl his lip at you. It sets off a shuddering sensation that leads into the militaristic charge of King of Bones, carefully measured for drummer Leah Shapiro to take charge with her gated tom hits as Hayes and Robert Levon Been force their way into a crawl with cool indifference.

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club tend to flourish when they don’t veer too much from a well-established route. Aside from Echo, which follows the billowy haze of The Verve but with a more glistening melodic approach, most of their other psychedelic detours tend to fizzle away with a nondescript progression. Slight experiments like Calling Them Away are an apt reminder of their noisier drifts into gliding ambiance, but coming after the spacious Brit Rock homage of Ninth Configuration doesn’t really help, as they bookend a middle half that goes on for far too long without a clear emotional core. They quickly exhaust their vital stock after a strong, cranked-up introduction.

Make no mistake, Wrong Creatures is an impeccably produced record that will undoubtedly appeal to any devout Black Rebel Motorcycle Club listener. Every charging, hard rock guitar and squelching feedback strikes with a sharpness that does not come at the price of distortion. Still, the marked contrasts in Creatures give the impression that Black Rebel Motorcycle Club were aiming for a sweeping, meticulously-layered force of Be Here Now-like proportions. They do take the opportunity to end things with a grand finale on All Rise, after all, a rousing piano ballad which shows them at their most softhearted as it emerges with a majestic dissonance that could’ve been inspired by Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. After all these years, their willingness to try new things is still intact, which is a good reason to not count them out completely just yet.