BRMC's Baby 81: Too cool for school
By
J. Gordon
6/11/2007 12:48:27 AM

Some bands are just too cool for their own good, and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club is one of them. Drawing sounds from the deep well of indie greats Jesus and Mary Chain, as well as the legendary Bob Dylan, and pulling in elements from backgrounds such as the Brian Jonestown Massacre oughta be good enough. But these guys play, both on CD and their live show, with a spirit that’s seductive, dark, moving and seemingly effortless. No bullshit for BRMC—it’s all about the music.

BRMC’s fourth and latest album, Baby 81 [RCA], may not be their greatest to date, but it’s certainly nothing to disregard. After their last folk-rooted and big style departure, Howl, everyone wondered what this band would do next. No one expected they’d step back to their own woozy, garage-psychedelic beginnings. The lovechild of every recorded effort they’ve done to date, Baby 81 takes the strongest points from their six-year history: the Jesus and Mary Chain big swirling guitar; the cooler-than-cool complementary vocals of Peter Hayes and Robert Levon Been; mixed with the lyrical intelligence of their previous album, Howl--and only has a couple minutes of crawling.

In fact, not much goes wrong. With only a couple throwaway tracks—not bad, per se, just rehash—and a somewhat out of place, overlong, 9-minute-plus improv jam in “American X,” the album is eminently listenable, if not as life-changing as parenthood. “Took Out a Loan” rocks. Hard. “Berlin” aches. “Weapon of Choice” is a smart political fuck-you ( I won’t waste my love on a nation…) “Windows” is the ethereal, rip your heart out, almost-ballad. “All You Do Is Talk”, “Lien On Your Dreams,” and “Need Some Air,” all feel a little too close to the painful relationships we’re sometimes trying to escape—but they do it with a rocking dignity that’s harder to conjure in everyday life. And what can be said about “666 Conducer”? Anything you do, sir… It’s so goddamned catchy I challenge anyone to keep their lips from mouthing the chorus a minute into the song.

Keeping everything in the family, production help for Baby 81 was done by Been’s father, frontman Robert Been of the Bay Area 80s band, The Call. In this age of Academy Is and Fall Out Boy, it’s no big surprise that BRMC aren’t getting much radio play. And really, thank god. This sonic-layered baby, and their darkly beautiful creators, are far too smart and disturbing to ever work to please the kids.

Besides, skipping school has always been more fun…

 

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