Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Beat The Devil’s Tattoo
The band's instability results in a record for the resume
"Stable" is not a word that's normally associated with Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. Since the group's San Francisco start in the late '90s — a period frontman Peter Hayes spent living in his hatchback — it's as if they've been hellbent on following the Marlon Brando fantasies of their biker gang name.
Or maybe it was all Nick Jago's fault. The band's off-and-on drummer left for the second time in 2008, admitting "I don't make it easy for them," and leaving the possibility of a reunion open but unlikely. (This in reference to such incidents as the time Jago accepted an NME Award at a televised ceremony by saying absolutely nothing for seven minutes).
So what happens when the tension in a volatile power trio gets yanked? Not a whole lot, actually. As would be expected from anyone's fifth album (sixth, if you count the soundscape experiments that are spread across The Effects of 333), BRMC treats Beat the Devil's Tattoo as a resume record — a "this is what we've done, and this is what we'd like to do" sort of thing. And by that, we mean it has tracks that reference everything from the acoustic asides of Howl (the piano-led "Long Way Down," the harmonica-chased haze of "Sweet Feeling") to the slightly psychedelic bent of Baby 81 (the masochistic mud bath of "War Machine," the tension-breaking temper tantrums of "Aya").
As for what might be next, the 10 curtain-closing minutes of "Half-State" are hypnotic enough to suggest a nice compromise between the band's rubber-burning beginnings and the Next Level space cadet songs they've yet to truly discover. Provided, of course, that they can maintain stability.