The Rock City archives: 2015

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Rock City Main Hall

  • Tuesday 30th June 2015
  • Supported by: VERY SPECIAL GUESTS: Carl Barat + The Jackals
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Somewhere between the five full-length albums and a decade-long road test across the highways of the world, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club found their way.

Eleven years after bassist Robert Levon Been and guitarist Peter Hayes started playing gigs around their hometown of San Francisco, the duo has now started over, with a new vision, a new drummer, and the gift of a future unknown.

The sound of Beat The Devil’s Tattoo comes from everywhere and nowhere- it draws a map and embarks on a sonic road trip through American music; from howling front porch stomps on the Chattanooga and beer-sloshing Texas roadhouse rockouts, to swaggering proto-punk sneering in NYC’s basement bars.

For six months, Hayes, Been and new drummer Leah Shapiro, holed up in a basement studio together, during one of the coldest winters in recent history. In this house outside Philadelphia —the same place Howl was penned — they built their first album as a new band from the ground up. "It was like a family again, living together and working really closely like that," Been says. "Something happened to us out there though, I'm not sure if we beat back our demons, or if we just let them take us over completely. But strange days make for strange times."

Beat The Devil’s Tattoo stirs with a raw sexual energy, melting down their previous four records, and forging a style that encompasses them all. The firebrand fuzz bass from their first two albums B.R.M.C. and Take Them On, On Your Own emerges on “Shadows Keeper,” and “Aya,” Howl’s acoustic driven, edgy Americana is ever-present on “Long Way Down” and the title track, “Beat the Devil’s Tattoo.”

Like the title of the album, a phrase gleaned from Edgar Allen Poe’s 1839 short story, “The Devil In The Belfry,” BRMC stands on the edge of darkness, but never dives in.

With songs of self-destruction and redemption, of heartbreak and ecstatic love, Beat The Devil’s Tattoo traverses much emotional ground. Like Poe’s American Gothic style, the album infuses the soaring spirit of Southern folk with lowdown grit of bijou blues. The slide-guitars and tambourine stomp of “River Styx” brings us “to the water’s edge where every sin has been washed away.” The dusty howls opening “Conscience Killer” evoke a fire-and-brimstone preacher leading the choir at an Alabama big-top revival.

Like the best balladeers, like Johnny Cash, Tom Waits, and Lou Reed, BRMC, translates feelings into sound, and sound into lyrics that sets off on moody journeys deep into the soul.

BRMC’s ceaseless drive to create, to tell stories of redemption and aching desire, keeps them going. It’s an addiction, an unquenchable thirst appeased only by the undying love of rock and roll.

 

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