Review: Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – Specter at the Feast
Published on March 25th, 2013 | Jonny Abrams
Let’s face it: Black Rebel Motorcycle Club are good at what they do, but what they do is little more than a welcome distraction. Specter at the Feast is affecting by dint of its tragic circumstances – that is, the passing of front man Robert Levon Been’s father Michael, who produced last album Beat the Devil’s Tattoo, occasionally played guitar for the band and played a big part in their development – but the results are still very much what you might expect from a BRMC LP. For some that will come as good news, and we’ve got no beef with that: heck, there’s the usual good stuff in parts.
Six-minute opener “Fire Walker” begins in a sparse, plinky wilderness akin to monged-out Aphex Twin. After a minute or so, the more reconcilable BRMC join in on a gently loping groove, in which the bass rises to hit such satisfying dissonance as to elevate the low-key atmosphere into something quite captivating. Its soft, burning intensity reminds of second-album Cooper Temple Clause, or even early Muse with the bombast dialled down.
The ensuing “Let the Day Begin” was a 1989 hit for Michael Been’s old band The Call, and is well suited to a BRMC handover with its rumbling drums, blues-rock riffing and sneering vocals. Next up, “Returning” is a heartfelt yet unfortunately rather dull sort of ‘washy’ affair that needn’t last for over five minutes, although the splendorous comedown rock of “Lullaby” hits the mark enough to forgive it its “Blackbird”-mining riff.
It’s back to blues on “Hate the Taste”, “Rival” and “Some Kind of Ghost”, with the punkily attitudinal “Teenage Disease” infiltrating their midst, before “Sometimes the Light” ushers back in the ‘washy’ in a grand, hymnal, Spiritualized sort of way. “Funny Games” is one the more cynical might feel compelled to start singing “Spread Your Love” over the top of, although the sleepwalking vocal reminds – rather unexpectedly – just a tad of Clinic. To be fair, it builds up quite the head of steam, letting loose with a monstrous two-note riff as it reaches its climax.
“Sell It” basically continues where “Funny Games” left off with nearly seven minutes of stomping swamp-rocking, leaving it to “Lose Yourself” – almost nine minutes – to sign off the album with a gradual build hewn out of a delicate majesty. Overall, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club very much remain Black Rebel Motorcycle Club on Specter at the Feast, but fair play to them.
Rocksucker says: Three Quails out of Five!
Specter at the Feast is out now on Abstract Dragon. For more information, please visit the official Black Rebel Motorcycle Club website.