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By James Cerche
23rd March 2013

The San Franciscan trio return after 2010’s ‘Beat The Devil’s Tattoo’ with a pensive, spacious album born from of a period of personal loss and recovery. The death of vocalist/bassist Robert Been’s father (BRMC sound engineer and lead singer of new wave rockers; The Call) haunts the record, saturating the songs both musically and lyrically as the band open up to the pain of Been Senior’s passing. There’s a distinctly U2-esque sense of production behind this set as we hear the titular spectre funnelled through ghostly backing vocals, mournful piano and carefully engineered atmospherics.

Kicking off to an ambient start, BRMC fall into a melancholy groove on opener ‘Fire Walker’. It’s the first of many moments that feel like an early Queens Of The Stone Age jam. The attention to retaining groove whilst emoting has always been characteristic of BRMC, and they continue to hone those skills here. Known for producing both crooning slow burners and outright balls-to-the-wall rockers, they endeavour to present both on their sixth LP.

These Been-led crooners sit alongside a thumping cover of ‘Let The Day Begin’, one of his old man’s songs. Tracks like ‘Lullaby’ and ‘Some Kind Of Ghost’ would have sounded at home on their earlier record, ‘Howl’. The soul, country and blues feel of the 2005 effort is turned to uplifting eulogy on the former as Been seems to usher his father into the next world beneath marching drums and sweet acoustic melody. The latter broods with droning organs played over a haunting ethereal moaning.

Guitarist and co-vocalist Peter Hayes emerges as a saviour, offering the album’s most savage moments. He attacks ‘Hate The Taste’ in trademark fashion with rumbling swagger and insistence. ‘Teenage Disease’ is as rough and ragged as the record gets. It’s flaming, adolescent and boastful, proving that the band hasn’t lost all their bile.

‘Specter At The Feast’ is warm and ghostly with enough reference to earlier material to feel like home, and enough expansion to feel like steps have been. However, as a cohesive set, the record doesn’t really settle as comfortably as it could. The back and forth flirting between mourning and badassery leaves the record sounding a touch disjointed. This said, there’s some good songwriting on display and a handful of killer riffs for fans to sink their teeth into.

BAND: Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
MEMBERS: Robert Been
Peter Hayes
Leah Shapiro
FORMED: 1998
FROM: San Francisco
SOUND: Garage Rock
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