‘Beat the Devil’s Tattoo’ | Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
For fans of: The Dandy Warhols, Kasabian, Queens of the Stone Age
Tracks to download: “Conscience Killer,” “Beat the Devil’s Tattoo,” “RiverStyx”
“Beat the Devil’s Tattoo” is an album caught between two impulses. The album opens with a pair of grimy, driving garage rock tracks and a few cuts of heavy punk. But, just when Black Rebel Motorcycle Club gets cookin’, they throw on the brakes with the down-tempo “Sweet Feeling,” which isn’t stripped-down as much as it is simply lackluster. From then on we are offered several tracks that tow the chemical line between stoner rock and psychedelia with varying degrees of success. It’s a shame that BRMC didn’t write a few more songs and release two albums. As it stands, “Beat the Devil’s Tattoo” sounds incongruous, like a single-sided double album.
Side One is solid; the title track sees the band swinging for the fences. A minor-key rock-n-roll field song sprawls with deep, unrelenting percussion, little guitar squeals and the walls of sound that appear on the album’s best tracks. Up next is “Conscience Killer,” a fuzzy punk number that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Stooges release. Far and away the album’s standout, it feels like at any moment the listener might get some of the band’s sweat on him.
“Bad Blood” and “War Machine,” a pair of smolderers soaked in feedback, hot as a lighter inches away from your face, sound like the band is playing through bullhorns. Both tracks, especially the latter, point to the album’s stoner-rock tendencies while still grinding along to the punk established by the first tracks, now slowing down to the consistency and stickiness of molasses. They, along with the false-stop of “Sweet Feeling,” round out Side One.
The tracks of Side Two are often interchangeable. Frontman Peter Hayes begins by singing barely above a whisper on “Evol,” before opening to a reverb-laden release in the chorus, while repeated guitar chords 10 feet tall crash over the listener, and cymbals crash in the distance. It works to great effect, but not such a great effect that the band should be permitted to do it for the next half hour.
“The Toll,” with its acoustic guitar, harmonica and lady vocals, is a brief, if unexciting, departure, but for the most part, Side Two chugs along without too much variety. Perhaps a chemically altered mind would find more to admire, but to the straight and sober listener, the latter half of “Beat the Devil’s Tattoo” just runs together in a haze, which is a pity after the hard-earned kick and punch of the opening tracks.