Beat The Devil's Tattoo

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club

Vagrant, 2010

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


Nowhere near as menacing as their name or the title of this CD suggests, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club has been fusing roots-rock and ‘80s alternative noise long before the Black Keys ever thought of it. If you like that latter band, which gets all the airplay, you will love Beat The Devil’s Tattoo.

The basis of the songwriting is old-time blues and rock, sort of along the lines of Robert Plant/Alison Krauss’ Raising Sand. The sound is enhanced by the fuzzed-out guitars and piledriving drums that characterize the best noise rock. The marriage is more solid than you might think, especially on the storming “Conscience Killer” and “Shadow’s Keeper.” my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The opening title track is heavier on the roots side, but once it is out of the way (it’s fine, but hardly memorable), the triptych of “Conscience Killer,” “Bad Blood” and the churning “War Machine” grab the listener and don’t let go until the pleasant, underwritten “Sweet Feeling” rolls in. With original drummer Nick Jago again parting ways, new blood Leah Shapiro not only fills in the space but sparks Robert Levon Been and guitarist Peter Hayes to new heights. Her work on “River Styx,” in particular, propels the song above the mundane.

Some of the songs drag around the middle of the disc, such as “Evol,” “The Toll,” and “Aya,” which all favor noise instead of an actual hook. It all winds to the strong Beatles mashup “Long Way Down,” which recalls the White Album in musical style and feelings of isolation in the words: “You can't even pray 'cause the words make you frail and hollow / Don't you cry to yourself just to feel like someone who's hit bottom / But you can't run away 'cause the hole that remains will follow.” Some fans have unjustly maligned this song, but Beatles fans will love it.

The album closes with the 10-minute prog-rock “Half-State,” a moody, neo-psychedelic crawl heavy on the guitar effects and vocal echo. It doesn’t really go anywhere but it sounds fine as it plays, a worthy addition to the Tool, Mutemath, and My Bloody Valentine school of drawn-out fuzz.

Calling Beat The Devil’s Tattoo Sabbath noir is too simplistic; there is heart and a smile beneath the layers of guitar and doom here, but it’s not an easy disc to get through in one sitting, even if it finally draws together the disparate strands that have characterized Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s music to this point.

Rating: B

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



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