Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, “Wrong Creatures”
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
Being guilty of blurry execution but cocky intention is nothing new when it comes to Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. Named for Marlon Brando’s rebel gang in The Wild One, the twenty-year-old San Franciscan BRMC—singer/guitarist Peter Hayes, bassist/vocalist Robert Levon Been, and drummer Leah Shapiro—have existed in a past-imperfect vacuum filled with noir cinema, Velvet Underground records, and Johnny Cash Show reruns. There’s nothing wrong with that aesthetic when there’s cutting focus to be found through the smoke and shadow (say, 2005’s Howl). Sometimes, however, they can’t part the dry-ice fog, and stumble over the cobblestones, to say nothing of the ham-handedness of relying on influences.
Wrong Creatures doesn’t have the fixation of the band’s best moments—despite the sadness the outfit felt over death and ill health in its ranks—yet it doesn’t come across as blurrily unmoored either. The genuinely creepy effort tests the limits of their spirit and spirituality on maudlin yet jittery songs such as “Question of Faith”—without losing the music’s crust (if it did they would just become Depeche Mode). Such energy and ire is further proven with the snot-nosed “Spook,” the broken bluesy “Haunt,” and the crunching “King of Bones,” the latter of which has so much swagger to spare that Brando would have been proud of his ghostly children. There is some unwarranted, overly atmospheric epic anthem stuff to be found (the thudding, U2-ish “Ninth Configuration”) that very nearly muddies the black waters within, but fortunately no wrongs could undo the rights.