Black Rebel Motorcycle Club Take Them On, On Your Own

[Virgin; 2003]

Rating: 4/5

Styles: indie rock
Others: Charlatans UK, The Strokes, Interpol, Spiritualized

It's gotta be hard for a band like sneering shoegazers Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, who, on their first album BRMC, pretty much came out on the top of their game. Not much room for improvement, or diversification. But, with their now trademark curled lip firmly in place, they’ve released their follow-up. And…

The results sound pretty damn similar. The first time through, I could discern almost no differences between the two. But, after repeated listenings, I’ve decided that whereas the first album embodied “Wanna fuck?,” this is more like “Wanna do some speed and fuck?” All bravado again, this outing is leaner and meaner; it knows what it wants to do and gets it done. There were a few stumbles on their debut, but every track on Take Them On, On Your Own is at least as good as the better tracks on BRMC.

Basically, all of the first 8 tracks are rehashes of the old formula. Droning guitars, trudging drums, taunting vocals, and distorted everything. A good, well executed formula, but I’ve heard it all before. I need something new. “In Like the Rose” is the first mutation. Kicking off with a stuttered guitar, and quickly flanked by a matching synth and some pounding drums, BRMC finally shows some rhythm. Add a catchy chorus with first-ever backing vocals and something pleasantly different is accomplished. But, the very next track goes back to those bad habits with an extra-dose of just-in-case swagger. However, you're rewarded for making it through; the real gem on this album is track ninne, “And I’m Aching.” Acoustic guitar and… supple, almost leisurely vocals sans distortion make up the band's first sneer-free song. Hints of Interpol shine through here, and also on “Rise or Fall.” The closing four tracks are signs of change for BRMC, for better or for worse.

I’m gonna do it. I’m gonna criticize this for sounding the same. But, I’m also going to listen to this BRMC album almost exclusively. Refining their craft, and making baby steps to growing it, Take Them On, On Your Own is a good listen for anyone, familiar with the band or not. Lets just hope we can say that about the Interpol follow-up.

1. Stop
2. Six Barrel Shotgun
3. We're All in Love
4. In Like the Rose
5. Ha Ha High Babe
6. Generation
7. Shade of Blue
8. U.S. Government
9. And I'm Aching
10. Suddenly
11. Rise or Fall
12. Heart + Soul