Album of the Week: The Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s ‘Specter At The Feast’
by J. Hubner
The track, “Fire Walker,” opens quietly. It’s like opening a long forgotten book and beginning what would be many incredible chapters. “Fire Walker” is the opening sentence to a band’s reawakening. Robert Levon Been doesn’t come out swinging, but swaying ever so lightly. Tension and sadness permeate his voice as he sings lines like ‘Your soul was only yours to keep/It’s buried in me now/A bullet from the shell it leaves/It strips it to the ground’. The song never gets above a masterful solemnity, and that’s how Specter At The Feast, released on Monday, begins a new chapter for Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, one of their best albums in years. (MP3 version only $5 at Amazon; CD is $8.99).
Then comes the rock. That familiar fuzzy bass, the straining guitar squalls, and the tribal drums return in full bombast form on “Let The Day Begin,” an instant BRMC classic. It encapsulates all the things BRMC have used to build their sound since forming in 1998; tension, gutter grime, and a fist-pumping bravado. At the heart of this leather-clad band, there is a straight-up rock ‘n roll band that wants nothing more than to make an arena filled with fans scream at the top of their lungs and sing along. They’re the U2 of the black leather jacket union. They’re the saviors of the freaks and geeks.
A song like “Returning” is a scratched and bleeding open hug for the disenfranchised. “Lullaby” has the feel of a lost classic. Been has never sounded this earnest and, well, lovely. The death of Robert Levon Been’s father in 2010 has given Specter At The Feast an ample amount of heartache and reflection that – for good or bad – has never been so present on any previous BRMC album. “Returning,” “Lullaby,” “Some Kind Of Ghost,” and “Sometimes The Light” bring an air of remorse, introspection, and ultimately redemption to this record.
Listen to the full album on Spotify.
There’s also still plenty of fire and grime in tracks like “Hate The Taste,” “Rival,” and the excellently Jesus and Mary Chain-like “Teenage Disease,” one of the best rock ‘n roll screeches you’re likely to hear this year. I hear a song like “Teenage Disease” and I can’t help but be reminded of New York by way of Detroit punk metal rockers Warrior Soul. Though only prominent for maybe a five-year span, Warrior Soul’s Korey Clarke had a voice that sounded battered, bruised and bloody, yet still retained a soul and power that kept you enthralled. Robert Levon Been has that same ability. Check out 1991′s Drugs, God, and the New Republic for proof of Warrior Soul’s short-but-sweet moment of rock ‘n roll glory. Specter At The Feast‘s closer “Lose Yourself” is a long and bittersweet goodbye, with a melancholy sound that hints at early British band Straitjacket Fits.
After a mid-2000s lull with albums like Howl, Baby 81, and the straight up bizarre The Effects of 333, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club seemed to be on the road to healing with 2010′s Beat The Devil’s Tattoo. With Specter At The Feast BRMC have proven to us once again they are one of the best rock ‘n roll bands working today. Robert Levon Been has also proven the best way to healing is through songs. This is a raucous rock ‘n roll comeback, and a bittersweet goodbye. The best kind of book.
8 out of 10 – J. Huber is a freelance music writer and music fanatic
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