Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – ‘Specter At The Feast’
Buy: Specter At The Feast
Before we begin, let me make it clear that I’m a big fan of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – and even have the lovingly curated Spotify playlist to prove it (suggestions welcome!) But it has to be said that with each passing album it becomes harder to remember just how raw and exciting they were back in the heady days of 2001. Their brand of stomping blues-rock mixed with a healthy dose of attitude and a slight spiritual leaning gave early hits like ‘Spread Your Love’ and ‘Whatever Happened To My Rock And Roll’ a sense of vitality and urgency.
Since then, their albums have consistently failed to really grab me. None of them have been bad, and all feature a decent smattering of quality songs – both of the hard rocking variety and in their laid back folk/gospel guise. They’ve all been a bit hit and miss though, leading to a growing sense that Black Rebel will never really better their brilliant self-titled debut.
‘Specter At The Feast’ is BRMC’s sixth album (not counting their independent and instrumental album ‘The Effects Of 333’) and, like their last four, it’s much of a muchness. It was recorded following the death of singer/guitarist Robert Been’s father Michael – and understandably a dark and introspective tone permeates the record. It even features a cover of Michael Been’s band The Call’s song ‘Let The Day Begin’ – which is an emotional highlight of the album.
In terms of other notable highlights on ‘Specter At The Feast’, ‘Fire Walker’ is a moody and atmospheric opener which features a typically grungey and well paced riff and some dreamy, contemplative vocals from Been. ‘Lullaby’ is a soft and gentle ditty that recalls the best bits from their 2005 album ‘Howl’ while in ‘Hate The Taste’ BRMC play to their strengths to create a powerful blues-rock anthem – the chorus refrain of “I wanna ride with you” can only become a live favourite in the coming months. ‘Rival’ carries on where ‘Hate The Taste’ left off, bringing in tattoo drums and heavily distorted guitars into the mix, before the album hits top gear with the quite brilliant ‘Teenage Disease’ – which is the kind of snarling and defiant rock song only Black Rebel can do properly.
Barring those five songs though, the rest of the album kind of passes you by in a swirling swamp of sludgy down-tempo tracks – which mostly try to conjure up Spiritualized-esque levels of mysticism and soul, but fall short. ‘Some Kind Of Ghost’ does nothing but interrupt the flow of the album, while the hymnal ‘Sometimes The Light’ lacks substance.
‘Funny Games’ injects a bit more attitude and urgency into proceedings, and ‘Sell It’ tries gainfully to be a rousing 7 minute epic. It’s eclipsed in that department by the album closer ‘Lose Yourself’ – which employs some very Coldplay-esque widescreen guitars. It’s all a bit uninspiring though, which stands out badly against some of the stronger songs on the album.
Like all of their albums ‘Specter At The Feast’ features just enough brilliance to remind fans how good BRMC are, but not enough for it to be classed as anything other than a decent album. There’s plenty in here that will be making it into my playlist though!