Black Rebel Motorcycle Club: Wrong Creatures [Album Review] 0 370

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club: Wrong Creatures [Album Review] 0 371

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
Wrong Creatures
Vagrant Records [2018]

ratings3_5







Fire Note Says: Black Rebel Motorcycle Club delivers another solid outing shaped by riff-rock and post-punk distortion.

Album Review: There are those bands that you just want to root for, they may not yet have produced that breakthrough album you know they are capable of, but you just sense they have it in them. Black Rebel Motorcycle is one of those bands for me. First off, they have a kickass name (borrowed from Marlon Brando’s gang in the movie, “The Wild One”), second they made smart riff rock that suggested classic rock influences like Led Zep, but they had an affinity for noisy distorted guitars ala The Jesus & Mary Chain and shoe-saze bands like My Bloody Valentine, and third, “Whatever Happened To My Rock & Roll” on the band’s debut was one of the best rock songs of 2001.

Also, probably a factor, bassist Robert Levon Been is the son of Michael Been of The Call, a band I also thought would one day breakout in a very big way, and although they made albums I thought were great, the closest they ever came to a hit song was “Let The Day Begin,” which seemed to attract the Frat Rock crowd for all the wrong reasons. With The Call inactive in recent years, Michael traveled on tour with BRMC doing sound for the band, but died off a heart attack when they were in Belgium to play the Pukkelpop Festival (Aug. 2010). As a tribute, BRMC recorded “Let The Day Begin” on their 2013 album, Specter at the Feast, putting their own heavy, distorted spin on the familiar guitar hook, Robert giving his own take on his father’s melody.

If tragedy doesn’t follow BRMC, it’s stayed a close companion over the years. The band formed when Been and long-time high school friend, guitarist Peter Hayes, decided to play together after Hayes finished a stint in the Brian Jonestown Massacre. From 1998 to 2008, drummer Nick Jago completed the trio, but in his later years there were issues with addiction and conflict. He was eventually replaced by Leah Shapiro who, had toured previously with The Raveonettes, and she has played drums on the band’s last two fine albums, Beat the Devil’s Tattoo (2010) and Specter (2013). In 2014, Shapiro had brain surgery, but has fully recovered and plays on the new one, Wrong Creatures.


Early on, you get a sense for the band’s knack for building a solid rocker out of a catchy guitar riff, in “Spook” and “King of Bones.” “Haunt” follows with a slower, bluesy sound to match its title, but in “Echo” BRMC sounds like they are making a nod toward U2, with the most pop-friendly melody on the record, and a guitar sound from the Edge songbook. The mid-section of the album finds BRMC playing loose and in their own unique groove on “Ninth Configuration,” “Question Of Faith,” and “Calling Them All Away,” all longer songs, with plenty of distortion and that big, thick, noisy sound that feels most natural for BRMC.

“Little Thing Gone Wild” is back in riff rock territory for a quick, fun burst of rock & roll, but then comes “Circus Bazooko,” which has a quirky calliope keyboard thing going on that feels pretty out of place on the album. The superfluous “Carried From the Start” and the too long piano closer “All Rise” finish up the album.

Twenty years in, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club have produced eight solid albums, they have a solid live show (they’re on tour now), and plenty of strong material, but that breakthrough I anticipated, both artistic and commercial, eludes them still.

Key Tracks: “Spook” / “Echo” / “Ninth Configuration”

Artists With Similar Fire: The Verve / The Jesus & Mary Chain / Love and Rockets

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club Website
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club Facebook
Vagrant Records

– Reviewed by Brian Q. Newcomb

Brian Q. Newcomb

Brian Q. Newcomb

Brian Quincy Newcomb has found work as rock critic and music journalist since the early 80's, contributing over the years to Billboard Magazine, Paste, The Riverfront Times, and The St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Brian Q. Newcomb
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Ruby Boots: Don’t Talk About It [Album Review] 0 466

Ruby Boots
Don’t Talk About It
Bloodshot Records [2018]







Fire Note Says: Aussie country rocker with promise debuts States-side for Bloodshot Records.

Album Review: The second album from Ruby Boots roars out of the gate with “It’s So Cruel,” a cow-punk rocker that recalls the energy of Jason & The Scorchers. But before you get your hopes up, producer Beau Bedford (of The Texas Gentlemen), perhaps eager to display the singer/songwriter’s versatility, offers her up in the big doo-wop wall of sound of “Believe In Heaven,” nostalgic for the early days when Phil Spector was producing girl groups as rock & roll was first finding it’s way into the mainstream. “Don’t Talk About It,” the album’s title track, follows. It’s another ballad with orchestration that draws inspiration from that old school retro-sound.

Ruby Boots (real name, Bex Chilcott) comes from Australia via Nashville and had one previous album on an Aussie imprint before this debut on Bloodshot Records, a journey made by Kasey Chambers and others. Following the first three big production numbers, Boots sounds more at home on “Easy Way Out,” with a chord progression borrowed from the Tom Petty songbook, and the country weeper “Don’t Break My Heart Twice.”


The second half of the album sticks closer to country/rock formulas, with “I’ll Make It Through,” co-written and with harmony vocals by Nikki Lane, “Somebody Else” and “Infatuation,” are set up by punchy rhythms, strong vocal hooks, and solid, rocking guitars and minimal twang. Okay Boots has some twang in her voice on “Infatuation.” On these three, and the closing angry, country kick you to the curb slow burner with bluesy guitar and honky-tonk piano/organ that is “Don’t Give a Damn,” Boots sounds a bit like a young Lucinda Williams as the song heats up like a Rolling Stones’ song.

It’s the nearly a capella, almost hymnic “I Am A Woman,” that exhibits Boots’ voice in all it’s unique purity, in a spiritual song that declares her feminine gifts and her internal strength of being, echoing strength alongside vulnerability. On the whole this is a solid, inviting outing, driven by good songs and equally solid performances. Ruby Boots will be one to watch.

Key Tracks: “It’s So Cruel” / “Easy Way Out” / “Infatution”

Artists With Similar Fire: Nikki Lane / Lone Justice / Lydia Loveless



Ruby Boots Website
Ruby Boots Facebook
Bloodshot Records

– Reviewed by Brian Q. Newcomb

Brian Q. Newcomb

Brian Q. Newcomb

Brian Quincy Newcomb has found work as rock critic and music journalist since the early 80's, contributing over the years to Billboard Magazine, Paste, The Riverfront Times, and The St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Brian Q. Newcomb

Bill Mallonee & The Big Sky Ramblers: Forest Full Of Wolves [Album Review] 1 858

Bill Mallonee & The Big Sky Ramblers
Forest Full of Wolves
Self-Released [2018]







Fire Note Says: Bill Mallonee is one of those best-kept secrets you really want to share with the rest of the music loving world.

Album Review: No one is ever going to call singer/songwriter Bill Mallonee an under-achiever. His latest release, a 10 song full-length effort, Forest Full of Wolves is his 78th album by his own count. Mallonee spent the 1990s fronting the Athens, GA-band Vigilantes of Love, shuffling from one label to the next, driving a van from coast-to-coast playing every alternative rock/Americana friendly venue who would let them. Hometown friend, Peter Buck (R.E.M.) co-produced one of the band’s early more-acoustic albums, the Killing Floor. The band’s 1999 album, released on three different labels of the course of 18 months, Audible Sigh was produced by Nashville’s favorite side-man Buddy Miller, and includes a guest vocal by Emmylou Harris, as well as some of Mallonee’s best loved songs. Paste Magazine has named him one of the 100 greatest living songwriters.

A rough count, say there were 10 songs per release (usually there were more), puts Mallonee’s songwriting output at nearly 8000, and those are the one’s he’s recorded. Now basic logic would suggest that they can’t all be good, and surely not all of them are memorable, but Mallonee’s work, his actual raison d’’etre, has proven especially consistent over the decades, and in the 2010’s he’s delivered a solid album’s worth of tunes each year, with a noticeable uptick in production values starting with 2011’s The Power & The Glory. Last year’s excellent The Rags of Absence was a case in point, with Mallonee especially attentive to his lead guitar parts.

Forest Full of Wolves continues to chronicle the challenges to working class people and even songwriters, as if Mallonee is creating his own musical version of John Steinbeck’s “Grapes of Wrath” for what he calls this “new dark age.” “Greed and fear (have) gained the upper hand,” he sings in “Changing of the Guard,” so he’s “grabbed a guitar & a notebook or two… became a phantom with some conjuring ‘neath the moon.”

Musically, Wolves takes the energy of Rags to the next level, with bigger, noiser guitar tones. Mallonee captures a Neil Young jamming with Crazy Horse in the garage vibe throughout, which is likely a lot harder to pull off since Mallonee’s playing all the instruments. Mid-tempo alternative country rock at it’s most earnest and relevant, and against all odds, Mallonee manages to offer a word of hope. “In the New Dark Age” he sings, borrowing the title from a different song that he recording on 2014’s The Winnowing, “the best thing you can do is fall in love.” Of course, “Love Is Always Risky Currency,” but it’s the best chance any of us have of surviving in this “Forest Full of Wolves.”

Like many artists scrambling to make art in the challenging digital marketplace and survive financially Mallonee has struggled to reach out and connect with Americana fans, break ground with new audiences, even though he’s stayed off the road in recent years. As a fan who first heard the singer songwriter live in the early 90’s, and many times over the years, Bill Mallonee is one of those best-kept secrets you really want to share with the rest of the music loving world. It’s artists who wear their passion on their sleeves, who keep pouring out their hearts in songs, that make the music that matters. (One reason to order the hard CD copy of this one, is the cover art produced by another singer songwriter, Chris Taylor, from San Antonio, TX.).

Key Tracks: “In the New Dark Age” / “Voodoo Ink” / “Trimmed & Burning”

Artists With Similar Fire: Neil Young / Bob Dylan / John Prine

Bill Mallonee Website
Bill Mallonee Facebook

– Reviewed by Brian Q. Newcomb

Brian Q. Newcomb

Brian Q. Newcomb

Brian Quincy Newcomb has found work as rock critic and music journalist since the early 80's, contributing over the years to Billboard Magazine, Paste, The Riverfront Times, and The St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Brian Q. Newcomb

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