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    Black Rebel Motorcycle Club:

    Howl

    Mon, 22 Aug 2005 18:16:36

    Album Reviews: Howl by Black Rebel Motorcycle Club

    Rock band lesson 101: If you are in a rock band, and your drummer develops a drug problem, you do the following:
    a) fire him
    b) record an album without any percussion to stick it to him
    c) let him stay in the band
    d) all of the above

    Answer: D, all of the above.

    If you are Black Rebel Motorcycle Club's Peter Hayes and Robert Turner, apparently parting ways with drummer Nick Jago not only resolved an overly dramatic situation, but inspired them to record an almost entirely acoustic record (with minimal contributions from Jago, who's since been rehired).

    BRMC's third release, Howl, is a dramatic departure from the band's signature fuzz-heavy, Jesus & Mary Chain-inspired rock. Heavy layers of bleeding distortion have been replaced by the stripped-down sounds of steel-string guitars and (gasp) harmonica. Opening track "Shuffle Your Feet" begins with a gospel chorus and quickly turns into a rustic romp. "Complicated Situation" and "Restless Sinner" unabashedly channel Dylan and Cash respectively, but that was bound to happen on an album like this. The title track is the closest Hayes and Turner get to echoing their previous two releases, while the album ultimately bottoms out on the horn-backed track "Promise" (rock band lesson 102: unless your band has lonely hearts in it, stay away the hell away from trombones).

    Judged against the current backdrop of one-hit, disposable garage-rock and neo-new-wave bands, Howl should maintain considerable staying power, albeit with more tempered hipster enthusiasm. Hell, the timing even seems right to release a low-fi, alt-country album -- Loretta Lynn is a household name once again, the South has won the white house twice, and Willie Nelson still looks good in overalls. As much musical growth and promise as this album illustrates, there is still the disappointing notion that we are still several years away from the next real Black Rebel Motorcycle album. Whatever happened to my rock 'n' roll? - Bill Packer

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