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BRMC Me, ASAP

Already a hit in the U.K., Black Rebel Motorcycle Club look for some stateside love (and continued Brit success) with new disc

Learning from the overwhelming experience recording their debut, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club went for a leaner, streamlined sound on Take Them On, On Your Own.
Music fans in the United States might wonder why Black Rebel Motorcycle Club felt a bit of pressure making their second album, Take Them On, On Your Own. After all, in the States, BRMC were easily overshadowed by much-celebrated "Garage Rock" groups like The Strokes, The White Stripes and The Vines. But in the United Kingdom, the spotlight fell squarely on BRMC.

During the two years that followed the release of the group's self-titled record, New Musical Express, the country's leading music publication chose the band to grace its cover four times. The debut CD also produced three widely aired singles in the U.K. -- "Love Burns," "Spread Your Love" and "Whatever Happened to My Rock 'n' Roll (Punk Song)."

"It took me about three weeks to even get started on it, just because of all the stuff in your head about what should you do," guitarist/singer/songwriter Peter Hayes says about songwriting for the new disc. "(You're thinking) this is your opportunity. Now this one is going to be set up. It took me a while to even get started because I had to clear my head of all the thoughts about the consequences and what should be done."

Take Them On, On Your Own strongly suggests that Hayes and his bandmates -- bassist/singer/songwriter Robert Turner (son of Michael Been of The Call) and drummer Nick Jago --were able to let talent take over once they got down to the business of making the new CD.

While the debut had strong songs and established BRMC as a band to watch, the new stuff is a thoroughly satisfying step forward.

Take Them On gets off to a blistering start. "Stop" (the first single) opens things with an assertive bass line and driving beat that instantly puts the song in high gear. The taut energy level then goes into overdrive on "Six Barrel Shotgun," which blasts out behind a stinging guitar riff. "We're All In Love" is a grooving rocker that boasts perhaps the hookiest melody on the disc.

By and large, the rest of the album maintains the momentum kick-started by that impressive beginning. "In Like The Rose" uses a staccato guitar riff to immediately command notice; "Generation" offers another dose of tart and forceful Glam-ish Guitar Rock; and the epic "Heart + Soul" brings things to a potent finish.

Even with the anticipation that surrounded BRMC's new record, particularly in the U.K., Hayes says Take Them On was actually far easier to make than the first album.

Insisting on total artistic control from their label, Virgin Records, that 2001 debut had been a taxing learning experience for BRMC. The band members, despite being anything but seasoned studio veterans, decided to self-produce their debut and discovered in the process that it was anything but a simple undertaking.

The biggest challenges, Hayes says, came during the mixing process, as it proved difficult to find the proper balance for the record's thickly layered tracks.

"I would do like 16 overdubs, and it would be a mess to pick out which ones you wanted," Hayes says. "By the time you went to mix it, you'd forgotten what was ever even there. And so, you'd spend a day just trying to figure out what part goes where and all this. (Things) had a tendency to get in the way, you know. You do 16 tracks of guitar, and it would just get in the way and make it sound smaller."

Part of that problem was solved for Take Them On by the group's decision to pursue a leaner sound. Where the debut's layered approach occasionally gave that CD a gauzy metallic sound that prompted comparisons to the Jesus and Mary Chain, there's nothing fuzzy about the harder rocking, more stripped-down sound of the new disc.

"We didn't take as much time with it," Hayes says of the basic tracking. "With putting on the basics, even cutting the vocals and all that, there were a lot of just one takes and two takes, just kind of let it come out the way it is then go back over it and do an overdub and leave that as the one take, and not get too involved in how deep it goes. On this one we just kind of felt like this is what we should do. We didn't want to think about it too much. So we really kind of stripped it down and tried to do a lot less."

Hayes and Gordon, in their mid-'20s, began working toward what is now BRMC after they met in high school in the San Francisco area. The band really came into focus in 1998 when Jago, a transplanted Englander, auditioned for the band. With Jago on board, the trio took a major step in their career in 1999 by recording a self-produced 13-track demo. That recording, coupled with frequent shows in San Francisco and Los Angeles, drew the attention of several labels, including Virgin Records.

Even with the success the group has enjoyed in the U.K., Hayes says the band members still feel an urgency to prove themselves in America.

"It's a challenge on this side (of the Atlantic) that you've got to live through the 'band of the moment' thing that happens," says Hayes from a Reading, England tour stop. "That's the whole thing. Everybody who comes to a show knows that and has that in their heads. It's like 'Oh, band of the moment.' So it's still a challenge. It's not easy street. You've got to prove yourself, that you're worthy of it, of the press. At its best, it will keep you on your toes."



BLACK REBEL MOTORCYLE CLUB play Bogart's on Wednesday with The Rapture and The Starlite Desperation

E-mail Alan Sculley


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