Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Beat the Devil's Tattoo (Vagrant, 2010)

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club first came to my attention nearly ten years ago with their debut single "Love Burns". Their layers of feedback-drenched guitars, reminiscent of The Jesus and Mary Chain but more melodic, made a lasting favorable impression with me. Their lyrics can be hard to get sometimes, but good, aggressive rock and roll is not always easy to come by, and I've willingly cut them some slack. The band improved steadily over the course of the decade, with each of their next three albums improving over its predecessor. Their last album Baby 81 was my favorite album of 2007, in fact. Peter Hayes, Robert Levon Been, and new drummer Leah Shapiro break the ice on the new decade with a new album called Beat the Devil's Tattoo.

People familiar with previous BMRC albums will have a good idea what to expect. There's plenty of heavy, abrasive guitar rock to go around. The acoustic guitars that popped up on most of their third album Howl make some brief appearances here as well. The familiarity in their sound is a mixed blessing, though. On one hand, if you thought they rocked before, your opinion won't change. On the other hand, there's not a whole lot on Beat the Devil's Tattoo that distinguishes it in a particularly favorable way from the band's previous work. The noteworthy exception for me is the album's closing song "Half-State." At ten minutes it's certainly lengthy, but there's something about the dreamy vibe of the song that's hard to resist, and the band made an inspired decision by letting the song keep going.

Otherwise, the gritty, half-acoustic title track, and the punkish "Conscience Killer" and "Mama Taught Me Better" also hold up well next to BRMC's earlier work. The rest of the album is at least decent, and fans of the band certainly won't complain. Beat the Devil's Tattoo might not quite match Baby 81, but it's still worth having.

Overall grade: B

reviewed by Scott

"Beat the Devil's Tattoo"

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