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Black Rebel Motorcycle Club: BRMC Black Rebel Motorcycle Club 
BRMC
[Virgin]
Rating: 8.2
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The Black Rebel Motorcycle Club seem to be the hot topic out here in L.A. right now. This past week alone, our two most respected independent newspapers printed articles on them, coinciding with their appearance at a club marked for bands on their way to indie-stardom. It seems that the savvy music consumer can't get away from them.

And perhaps the savvy music consumer ought not get away from them; their debut, BRMC, is consistently excellent and deserves to be heard by fans of 70's glam and shoegazer alike. There are definite similarities between BRMC and other shoegazer bands: the trademark reverb-heavy guitar sound, the repetitive song structures, and the hypnotic, droning quality. But when the distinct drums of the first song kick in, it becomes apparent that this is not your average shoegazer band; oh no, these lads care far too much about details to let this become a bloody soup of noise and feedback. And so it continues: the guitars add up, the synths synthify, and everything becomes thick, heavy, dark and delicious. Somehow, though, everything still remains quite clear.

Considering that Virgin came away the winner of the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club's hot and heavy bidding war, the production on the album is a touch lo-fi. Five of the songs on this album are even culled directly from the band's original demo tape. The somewhat murky sounds of BRMC lend a warm feeling to the songs-- the layers of guitar are always evident, but rather than sounding like the product of recording session wizardry, the record manages to capture the band in more of a live setting. The newer studio tracks contain a slight sonic clarity not found in the demo tracks, but they were recorded with a similar result in mind, and rarely seem out of place. Future BRMC producers beware; a misguided effort at capturing a production sheen with this band could very well contribute to losing sight of the fact that this threesome just cooks.

The songs on BRMC all seem to glide into one another to create a pervasive mood. While songs may differ in feel, it's the various moments in each song-- rather than certain songs, in particular-- that the listener will enjoy so much, and remember after the album has left the stereo. For instance, "As Sure as the Sun" is a highly enjoyable tune that isn't truly different from the rest of the batch until the machine gun tremolo guitar kicks in at 3:06, lending it a refreshing vintage vibe and a welcome injection of variety. "Awake" features a more straightforward, fun pop verse, but the song comes alive at the chorus, when that layer of sludgy keys and guitar piles in. "Rifles" opens up with a dark, mid-tempo swampy guitar groove utterly saturated in reverb, embellished by crisp eighth note hi-hat hits. A few seconds later, a synthesizer gurgles somewhere in the mix, and the drums assault in full force.

The BRMC's songs all have a slightly different feel, but regardless of the song's particular style, each carries the group's own pervasive signature touch, never losing sight of the sound that's distinctly their own. "Whatever Happened to My Rock 'n' Roll (Punk Song)" invokes the early energetic Supergrass. There are several instances on BRMC in which they sound a bit like the Dandy Warhols, but imagine the Dandys playing a much less pop-oriented style and focusing more on dreamy, minor key grooves, and adding a healthy serving of blues to the mix. (It should be noted that the two bands toured together recently; hopefully they took a few hints from their opening band.) "Spread Your Love" provides another nice change of pace toward the end of the disc, with its raucous, contagiously fun and wicked stomp.

I've had more fun with BRMC than I've had with a new band in long time. Throughout their album, the band handles the songs' mood shifts gracefully, and there's always a surprise or two-- however subtle-- to continually reel you in. The way these guys fade the song "White Palms" at the very end to only acoustic guitar and vocals singing, "I wouldn't come back if I'd have been Jesus/ I'm the kind of guy who leaves the scene of a crime," and make it sound like a genuine campfire song, is a perfect example. Even if these guys never get the attention they deserve, I'm content in knowing that, if nothing else, I'll have many more chances to catch their awe-inspiring live show before they disband.

-Morgan Klein

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