Black Rebel Motorcycle Club: Beat The Devil’s Tattoo
Beat The Devil’s Tattoo was released in 2010 and I was slow to buy a copy of it. The reason for this wasn’t because I wasn’t interested in the album, it was more that Black Rebel Motorcycle Club are a big hit-and-miss band. 2007’s ‘Baby 81’ was a brilliant album full of heavy, hard hitting, rock ‘n’ roll songs, and then there was 2008’s disastrous download only ‘Effects of the 333’, which is essentially 55 minutes of hollowed out industrial sounds. To give an idea of how bad it was, Pitchfork media rated it 0.4/10, and even that might be generous. So in 2010 B.R.M.C released their sixth studio album and it seems that they’ve decided to actually make music again, and it’s okay. Not great, but alright.
Starting with the title song the album opens with a long, droning track that doesn’t really go anywhere, but serves the purpose of setting us up for what is to come. ‘Conscious Killer’ is the heavy hitting Baby 81 style song you were hoping to hear. It comes at you with thumping drums, heavy guitars, and blow away choruses. The song is just under 4 minutes of what B.R.M.C. do best, and the building ‘oooh’ is a touch of brilliance. Third song ‘Bad Blood’ is the quieter, more passive aggresive brother of ‘Conscience Killer’. It rumbles along with fun, prolonged choruses, but it feels as though it could be so much more than it is. It’s subdued and lacks excitement, and as a consequence it just feels like it drags on a little too long.
The following track ‘War Machine’ is the halfway house. It starts with howling, distorted guitars, wailing vocals and a heavy drum beat and carries itself well. Its certainly an engaging song and shows signs that B.R.M.C. are returning to what makes them great. ‘Sweet Feeling’ is the fifth song, and to be honest it’s a let down. It’s a slow acoustic song that has it’s pleasant moments as well as it’s painful moments. It’s filler of the worst quality and a serious low for the album.
‘Evol’ is another song there just to fill time. It’s better than the previous song, but it doesn’t go anywhere. It has it moments, but the songs biggest failing is at just under six minutes long it really makes us aware of how uneventful it is and how much better it could have been. The song that follows, ‘Mama Taught Me Better’ is one of the rare highlights so far. It starts quietly before unleashing a heavy, fast paced guitar riff, drums, and the perfect match of snarling, aggressive vocals. The riff carries the song between choruses and it’s a showing of B.R.M.C. at their finest. ‘River Styx’ is next and it fumbles along with a heavy bass and heavy drum beat. It’s a song that holds it own but is also being held back, even at its most climactic it feels as though it is lacking the raw energy that B.R.M.C. used to be famous for. ‘The Tool’ is another disappointing acoustic song with a slight country vibe and a harmonica, which is all you really need to know about it.
Up next is ‘Aya’ which starts promisingly with deep vocals, a steady drum beat and a grinding guitar riff that rules over everything. It picks up it’s pace and move ahead, and above all the noise you hear the lyrics shouted and strained, but it all seems put on and lacking passion. Its another track that lacks creativity and just carries on. ‘Shadow’s Keeper’ is a welcome surprise. It sounds like it was a song left over from the recording of Baby 81. The choruses are big and drawn out and the pitched riff that echoes through them is a brilliant touch that unfortunately fades over the length of the six minutes. Despite this though it is still one of the better songs on the album with simplistic but effective drums, and a great bridge that features some astounding bass playing and a wonderful amount of noise.
The final three songs are in some ways the final nails in the coffin for the album. ‘Long Way Down’ is a slow song that didn’t invoke anything but boredom for me. It’s pleasant enough, but its a failed attempt at a true heart-felt song. ‘Half-State’ is a daunting song to start purely because it clocks in at over ten minutes long, but it’s a journey worth taking. It starts with echoing vocals, a steady drum beat, and some faint reverberating guitars. It sounds like B.R.M.C. trying to recreate The Stone Roses’ Second Coming in some parts, while in others it shines through as their own ‘Howl’ era sound. For it’s ten minute stretch it has enough variation to keep it moving, but not enough to justify it’s length. It self-indulgent on the band’s part, but it’s a journey worth taking; I would just suggest fast-forwarding to about the five minute mark first. Finally we get to the last song, ‘Annabel Lee’. It’s a piano laden ballad that has vocals that linger on the line between sorrowful and whiny. It fails at being emotive and so fails at being a worthwhile addition to the album. Instead of ending with a bang, it ends the album with a drawn out whimper.
Beat The Devil’s Tattoo is an album that makes me wonder whether Black Rebel Motorcycle Club are passed their prime. When they first arrived on the music scene in 2001 they were heralded for their no fuss, raw energy, back to basics, heavy rock sound and were expected to go on to big things. As the years passed they had their crowning moment (in my opinion) with Baby 81, but have since then been trying to reach for styles that aren’t their own. They’re trying to show they have what it takes to write songs that can tug at your heart strings and play with your emotions, but what they should be doing is sticking to the sound they know and are famous for. What I was hoping for was another album of songs that get the pulse racing and make you want to jump about, instead Black Rebel Motorcycle Club delivered four decent songs, three horrible songs, and a lot of filler.
- Score: 4.5 out of 10
- Stand Out Song: Conscience Killer