The Black Rebel Motorcycle Club: Music Spotlight

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“We’re not the righteous/We’re not the innocent/We’re just the sign it’s all gone wrong.”-Black Rebel Motorcycle Club on “Rival”

The first time I heard The Black Rebel Motorcycle Club(or a more easier name to remember them by, B.R.M.C.), I was watching HBO’s sports series 24/7 three years ago.    The special was about the Winter Classic between The Pittsburgh Penguins and The Washington Capitals.   The annual event is a special occasion, as is the music selection of the premium cable network.

As the shaky job status of then head coach of the Capitals Bruce Boudreau was talked about, a certain slow building rock song with an addictive chant was played. Slowly, the chant turned into lyrics about needing a drug to move and a lot to live and then the guitars and drums turned a regular track into a killer beat.   A song by the name of “Beat The Devil’s Tattoo” was the tune and it is one of those songs that sticks inside your head for a while.

There is no peace here
War is never cheap dear
Love will never meet here
It just gets sold for parts
You cannot fight it
All the world denies it
Open up your eyelids
Let your demons run-“Beat The Devil’s Tattoo”

A few episodes later, “Weapon of Choice” was used and that sent me on a mad search for this band’s history, albums and music.  This is typical for me.  I find a fair portion of my music through movies, TV shows and other random bits of entertainment business outlets.    Once I do, I slowly make my way through that band’s entire catalog before leaving with a few songs to remember.  Today, The B.R.M.C.  has me slowly collecting their entire arsenal of music and finding the ability to be stunned repeatedly by their versatile performances.

The B.R.M.C. is all I listen to.  You know you love a band when you constantly throw 2-3 of their songs on a single mix instead of the mandatory single track.  Once you seriously plug into their music, you will find yourself in the world of a different kind of rock n’ roll band.   A band that isn’t defined by large blasting waves of guitar or overzealous lyrics but a group of musicians who create tunes that give you all the pleasures of hard rock but also offer the mellow tracks and poignant ballads.  Singer/songwriter tunes feel like personal stories being told to you through a one way voice track through the microphones stuck in your ear, gathering noisy wax as the enjoyment level goes through the roof.  The B.R.M.C. are a rock n’ roll band in blood and bone but don’t confine themselves to one kind of sound.  They are toughness personified but allow their innocence to be shown in various slower ballads and melodies.

I’ve seen the battle and I’ve seen the war
And the life out here is the life I’ve been sold
Yah I’ve seen the battle and I’ve seen the war
And the life in here is the life I’ve been told-“The Devil’s Waitin”

The Black Rebel Motorcycle Club originated in 1998 and originally went by the name, The Elements.  After recognizing another band had that name, they switched to Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, taken from a 1953 Marlon Brando film called The Wild One.  In the film it was what Brando’s character called his gang.  The main members were guitarists Robert Been and Peter Hayes.  Been’s father, Michael, later  joined the band as the sound tech and producer and helped them produce their first album, B.R.M.C., in 2001.  A rough Led Zeppelin sound mixed with a Sonic Youth restraint and it continued on Take Them On, On Their Own in 2003.   For me, their music took off with 2005’s Howl, where the bluesy guitar and poignant rock took over their sound.   Songs like “Devil’s Waitin”, “Ain’t It Easy”, “Restless Sinner” and “Fault Line” were crafted on that album and it made for an experience that didn’t include any skips.

Drummer Nick Jaggo contributed to earlier album work on Baby 81 and toured with the band live for stretches of time.  On Beat the Devil’s Tattoo and Specter At The Feast, the band has welcomed in drummer Leah Shapiro.  She adds a required consistency to the various electric and acoustic guitar work provided the male leads.   Peter Hayes contributes a very well used harmonica as well as vocals and guitar work while the younger Been contributes vocals and guitar work as well.  The two bring different singing styles to the band.   Hayes has more of a soulful grace while Been can howl at the moon like few other musicians.

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I never thought I’d see it coming
I never thought I’d ever know
Nothing seems to take me over
Nothing seems to let me go.-“Shuffle Your Feet”

The success continued on 2007’s Baby 81, which holds their two best songs in my opinion and two tracks that sound completely different.   “All You Do Is Talk” is a slow building rocker sung by Hayes with the format of a ballad that relies heavily on the band’s electric grace.  “Weapon of Choice” is a 2 minute 43 second rocker that picks you up and slams you down with a closing electric guitar rumble that will ask for repeated listens and could help finish any run or workout.

2010’s Beat the Devil’s Tattoo is another stellar album with the title track being the best on there and another quieter song, “The Toll”, bringing to our ears one of their most personal songs to date.  While on tour in 2010, Been’s father, Michael, suffered a fatal heart attack backstage during a show in Belgium.  In my eyes, that song is a fateful reminder of the toll we take in life and the weight of our decision making and losses following us around daily.

“Everything’s taken its toll
It’s a moment we carry alone
With a cause there’s a cure for the soul”-The Toll

After a three year hiatus, the band came back in 2013 with Specter At The Feast, an album that took a few rounds to fully appreciate because the band stretched its sound a bit into different realms of rock.   With slower tales like “Lose Yourself” and “Angel Baby” mixed with faster moving tracks like “Rival” and “Hate The Taste”, the latest album was another classic B.R.M.C. album.   Rockers laced with slower ballads and instrumental sessions.

I got a fatal heart, I’m tried to living 
Got a tortured soul, I can’t give it away 
Gonna find a line, to get me through to reason 
Gonna bury it all just to give it a name-“Hate The Taste”

Listening to the band work, you get that cool vibe that always comes up when a rock song is playing.    These guys can play just about anything and can deliver a versatile set of songs.  This is the kind of band that puts it all on the line every time they play a live venue.   They are who they say they are and what their album promises.  While other bands pigeon holes themselves with adjusting their sound album to album, B.R.M.C. can do so on one album.   Provide 2-3 different sounds with an overlying tempo of acoustic and electric guitars.

This past September, I had the privilege to watch the band live at St. Louis’ concert venue, The Pageant, and they didn’t disappoint.    A lot of bands can sound great in a studio with the equipment blocking out the rougher edges of their musicianship.   On a live stage, with your ability and voice carrying the load, is where safe bands with no true skill are separated from the groups who can play great ANYWHERE.   The Black Rebel Motorcycle Club delivered a solid 2 hour show that had me begging for more by the end.

Help yourself don’t think
Help yourself don’t speak
Help yourself don’t say a thing at all
You’re lucky words don’t bleed-“All You Do Is Talk”

For a guy who keeps discovering great music every day, I can tell you this.   The Black Rebel Motorcycle Club always have me coming back to revisit their work.    I have been a confessed Dave Matthews Band fanatic for most of my life and while that still holds true, the B.R.M.C. are quickly making their way up my daily must listen to band list.  Right now, I can listen to a couple of their albums without skipping a single track.    That is the true mark of great music for fans.   Putting their disc in and not feeling the need to find a particular song.  I can’t say that with any other band right now, and that’s right,  not even D.M.B..

It can’t be known
What lies in wait
For those of us in crippled states
A broken mind is no escape
When there’s no one left to reason with
There’s no one left to call your name-“Restless Sinner”

Being a newly addicted follower of The B.R.M.C., I will be checking out their completely instrumental album, The Effects of 333, which is a collections of tunes best saved for a dark night and few cups of coffee and could drape a movie in suspenseful wonder.   Being a fan of Texas instrumental band Explosions In the Sky, anytime a band puts out a vocal less piece of work, I think of a long run through an early dawn morning with some fog.

The band has stayed under the radar for around 15 years and it’s the right method.   This group doesn’t need worldwide attention or acclaim.  They are perfectly independent in their sound and can make music whenever they want.   They will get together soon, after a brief winter tour, and start writing the next album.    When will it come out?  No idea but let me tell you this.   I will wait for a great album instead of getting a rushed album that doesn’t sound cohesive or as strong as their previous work.  Music takes time and patience and isn’t for the clingy or needy.

The B.R.M.C works on their own schedule and that’s a good thing.  Do me a favor and listen to this band.   Below is a small taste of their music.   A tune from just about each album.

Devil’s Waitin(HOWL)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IAik76-yHEg

Heart+Soul(Take Them On, On Their Own)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nldmCQjADFI

Spread Your Love(B.R.M.C.)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nldmCQjADFI

All You Do Is Talk-(Baby 81)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e8v7w46WHa0

Beat The Devils Tattoo(Title track)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gn9C1vKd7Gc

Rival(Specter At The Feast)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VfnszUQrobQ

Listen.  Digest.  Listen again.  This band can appeal to rock n’ roll addicts and music fans in general.  My wife digs it.  My 2 year old song bobs his head to it when it plays as well.   Try it out and let me know what you think.   With music, there are no guarantees but a thorough investigation here is required.  Have fun!

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I won’t be denied 
I’m coming in this time, babe 
I’ve fallen in love with your creatures soul 
And I’ve been a witness to your sickest obsession 
And I feel alive as long as I keep hold 
Of what I think I thought I heard you loved me 
I think you thought you heard I loved-“Took Out A Loan”

*With additional help and insight from Paula K.

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Dan Buffa is the co-creator, administrator and writer for the movie website, film-addict.com. He also writes for the local blog United Cardinal Bloggers in addition to Arch City Sports and also writes for his personal blog, http://www.doseofbuffa.com.   He is a STL born and raised writer with a need to inform and the ability to pound out 1,000-1,500 word pieces with ease.  When he isn’t writing or drinking coffee, he is spending time with his wife and son in South City.  Follow him at @buffa82 on Twitter and reach him for thoughts, comments and general feedback at buffa82@gmail.com.

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Author: D. Buffa

A regular guy who feels a journalistic hunger to tell the news. I blog because its wired into my brain to write what I think in print. I offer an opinion. A solo tour here. Take regular stories and offer my spin on them. Sports, film, television, music, fatherhood, culture, food, and so on. Commentary on everything. A St. Louis native and Little Rock resident who wants to write just to keep the hands fresh and ready.

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