“Whatever happened to my rock’n’roll?” howled Black Rebel Motorcycle Club on their artfully noisy debut ‘BRMC’ back in 2001. Sung with a snarl and delivered with swagger, it had that perfect balance of sex and danger that helped lay down the blueprint for the garage-rock revival that followed. They were months ahead of The Strokes and Kings Of Leon, proving what could be done with “a sweet sensation and simple chord“.
Seven albums and a line-up change later, as the band enter their 20th year, the same question about the whereabouts of rock’n’roll gets asked a lot. Good new guitar music exists, of course, should you make the effort to look for it – but what of the old guard? Can a band like BRMC still matter, or is ‘Wrong Creatures’ just a sad monument to their own leather-clad legacy?
From the off, BRMC plant their flag. Dark and tribal opener ‘DFF’ showcases the band at their most cinematic, before the searing ‘Spook’ and ‘King Of Bones’ are loaded with brimstone and bravado. The whole album is driven by that Nick Cave sense of foreboding menace, an outlaw spirit that would sit well on the Peaky Blinders soundtrack. But while there’s plenty of that classic BRMC ‘tude, and a vintage touch, they’re still full of ideas.
‘Haunt’ and ‘Echo’ subtly simmer with the band’s understated grace, while ‘Little Thing Gone Wild’ takes their filthy formula to an exhilarating place. More surprises lay in wait with the twisted psychedelia and shoegaze of ‘Calling Them All Away’, the playful but nightmarish waltz of ‘Circus Bazooko’ and the aching piano-led crescendo of ‘All Rise’’s finale.
It needs a little more ‘bite’, a few more musical highs and some lyrical depth to feel essential, but BRMC still have the songs to pull off a record that matters. They’re still doing it, and doing it well – there’s your rock’n’roll.