Tuesday, January 29, 2008


On Howl, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club has musically taken a less sonic left turn. The band’s latest is night and day to previous releases which were comprised of bombastic garage rock and sugar surreal vocals.
It’s a hard sell for any band to change their sound (U2, Pop) with positive results. Perhaps it’s early enough in their career, or it’s that both previous releases and Howl are just that good, that BRMC have been able to get away with it. However, if you are married to the band’s original sound, Howl may come as a shock.
Howl is an album rich in texture, melding gospel, rock, soul, blues and a tiny dash of glam. It’s a moody recording at times, throwing at the listener rural imagery, prison walls, angels and devils, loss, religion and addiction. The opening track opens with a harmonious Time won’t save our souls, and you feel taken, strapped down, to a church. Who knows if I’ll see you again? ends the track. And the trip begins. The album is akin to walking in on a church service one moment and into a smoky dive the next. Howl is about choices, good and bad, and we deal with them at the end of the day, the consequences. Its lyrics are pregnant with doubt, regret, reality and finality.
‘Devil’s Waitin’ is Howl’s strongest track. The title says so much but it is an achingly beautiful one man hymnal about a life filled with error. The vocals float around as a voice on the wind accompanied by hypnotically gentle guitar. It’s powerful in the way that ‘One’ (U2) or ‘I’m On Fire (Springsteen) is. It’s a song about a life filled with mistakes and how they’re passed on, learned by association. Out on the corner with cast iron blood/They say I might die I may be cold/ I may have no Jesus I may have no soul/In prison I hear there’s time to be good/But the first thing you see is the last thing you should. The narrator sings of a fatal choice, I’ve roamed from the reasons and roamed to the gun.
‘Still Suspicion’ is a restless number about living alone and the reality of the world’s brutal truth – that you’re on your own, when the ability to trust has been ripped away, You take them on your own until you die. Cold living. The title track is desperate, longing to be a good person, to be trusted, still unsure about the future, I just want to be the one thing that doesn’t fade. ‘Restless Sinner” cuts to the quick, about a life in hell, in which there’s no talking your way out, He’s been waiting with the blind just to find a place to hide his ghost and The door’s been closed since he’s walked in/He’ll greet you with a cross and a sickle as he helps you in.
‘Fault Line’ is a real gem, a song coupling drug addiction and paternal anxieties about them finding out. I’ve been waitin on the fault line/let the needle take me on/Racing with the rising tide to my father’s door/Never wanted from another man/Never wanted from my own…See my shadow from below. ‘Gospel Song’ sings resolutely, And I will stand with Jesus, till I can’t take another stone.
‘Ain’t No Easy Way Out’ warns about falling love and it’s the album’s wall shaker, bristling with harmonica and crashing drums. ‘Sympathetic Noose’ could easily be a lost recording by T.Rex but it’s an acoustic number wrapped in a funky drum beat laced with maracas, I gotta make sense of ou/Cos I don’t know how to be careful/I don’t know how to be there for/I gotta feeling I can’t prove/I gotta sympathetic noose. The vocals sound partly monotone, nasally and come out of the speakers like that little girl lost to the other side in Poltergeist.
Although musically it sounds nothing like Johnny Cash, his presence is everywhere. Songs about failing, finding Jesus and hope are there. Amongst the detritus there’s still the tiny glimmer of hope, of redemption.
The cd packaging resembles how vinyl albums were once put together and although the rerecording is modern, Howl sounds as though it was unearthed from someone’s trunk, curiously devoid of analog hiss and scratches. It’s timeless and the only detraction is the lack of lyrics, lyrics which read like poetry.
They can be found (and many more) at lyricsmania.com Thank you Internet.

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