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Black Rebel Motorcycle Club - Baby 81

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Baby 81

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

BLACK Rebel Motorcycle Club deliver their new album Baby 81 in suitably emphatic style, replacing the rootsy, acoustic sound of their previous album Howl with a powerful, guitar-driven rock ‘n’ roll sound that’s more in keeping with their earlier sound.

Ironically, the LP was born only minutes after the final track on Howl had been completed, when Peter Hayes (guitar/vocals) and Robert Levon Been (bass, vocals and guitar) were rejoined in the studio by drummer Nick Jago after a brief break up earlier that year.

The result was an emotional experience for all concerned, as Jago recalls: “I was almost in tears the whole time.”

Been, for his part, felt the same way and after laying down the inspired, hard-hitting Took Out A Loan and 666 Conducer, he held on to the two songs for the next year, daydreaming about what could happen if the band finished them.

The result of completing them is Baby 81, a driving rock ‘n’ roll record that still maintains Howl‘s folky core. It’s described by Hayes as “a sister record” that derives its name from an infant that was admitted to hospital in the wake of 2004’s tsunami that was claimed by nine different mothers until it found its way back to its own family.

Like that story, it’s a record that hits hard but carries a message of hope. And there’s plenty to get excited about, particularly if you’ve enjoyed listening to the band evolve since their breakthrough album Take Them On, On Your Own.

Album opener Took Out A Loan cracks off with a really chunky guitar riff that sets things up in impeccable style, inviting fans to dust off those black leather jackets and get over the blues trip that Howl took them on (don’t get us wrong, we love Howl as well).

Thereafter, it’s a punchy, epic collection of emotive rock tracks that combine the psychedelic fuzz rock of their debut, with that folksy core that helped make Howl such a terrific “comeback of sorts”.

Berlin is another driving, guitar-heavy effort that features a blistering vocal turn before the anthemic Weapon of Choice really sets things off in spectacular style – the folksy acoustic guitars sliding about the place before being offset by the pounding drums and electric-based chorus. Come the euphoric chorus, BRMC will have whipped you into a sweaty frenzy. It’s like a rock ‘n’ roll adrenaline jab.

Window, meanwhile, slows things down a little with its piano-led intro and vocal style that occasionally hints at Wonderland-era Charlatans, and Cold Wind is a moody slice of introspection that picks up the pace again.

Thereafter, the highlights hit you hard and fast. Not What You Wanted is a radio-friendly offering that puts the powerful acoustic sound to the fore and lays down a genuinely catchy melody, while firm favourite 666 Conducer drops an incendiary, Zeppelin-inspired beat over some atmospheric acoustic licks and a scintillating vocal turn that perfectly compliments the imagery-laden lyrics. It’s the sound of the BRMC in full moody swagger and it quite literally blows you away with its inspired moodiness.

All You Do Is Talk, meanwhile, drops a church-like opening salvo that lends proceedings a touch of the epic status, and Killing The Light once again brings on the broodiness to magnificent effect.

And let’s not forget the politically aware American X, a nine minute plus sprawling piece of rock that includes one of the finest guitar solos the band has ever put forward.

In a word, exemplary. With Baby 81, BRMC have given birth to one of the great rock ‘n’ roll albums of the year.

Download picks: Weapon of Choice, Windows, Not What You Wanted, 666 Conducer, All You Do Is Talk, American X, Killing The Light, Cold Wind

Track listing:

  1. Took Out A Loan
  2. Berlin
  3. Weapon Of Choice
  4. Window
  5. Cold Wind
  6. Not What You Wanted
  7. 666 Conducer
  8. All You Do Is Talk
  9. Lien On Your Dreams
  10. Need Some Air
  11. Killing The Light
  12. American X
  13. Am I Only