Release Date: May 1, 2007
Record label: Red Ink
Genre(s): Indie, Rock
Review Summary: Black Rebel Motorcycle Club recover from a musical foray into the bland that made up much of their previous effort and put out a small stunner of an album in the sexy and dark Baby 81. It is sometimes a fine line between what a band actually is and what a band thinks it is, and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club was a solid rock in roll band right out of the gate with their 2001 self titled debut and 2003 sophomore effort Take Them On Your Own. But for 2005's Howl LP the band seemed to shift to a "what we think we are" mode and turned out a record more about their influences then about BRMC itself.
Like the story of Baby 81, the child claimed by nine mothers in the wake of the 2004 tsunami who was eventually returned to its real family, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club's fourth album is one of reunion and rediscovery. With drummer Nick Jago back in the fold, the band have plugged in their guitars and moved away from the rootsy direction of their last album, Howl, to embrace the fuzzed-up, guitar-driven drones of their 2002 debut. Heavy on riffs and predictably low on laughs, Took Out a Loan and Weapon of Choice are aggressive takes on Love Burns, whilst Abbey Road-era Beatles are the inspiration for the soft-focus psychedelia of Window and Killing the Light.
After completely (and successfully) rehauling their sound for 2005's Howl, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club shelved their low-key Americana leanings, reburied their roots music influences, and retreated to a new version of their old, noisy sound. Baby 81 is a big rock record with walls of crunchy guitars, thundering drums, and lots of volume that sounds like a cross between Oasis and the Jesus and Mary Chain at their most conventional. It's also an over-polished, over-thought, and under-inspired record that forsakes everything good that the group accomplished on Howl (subtlety, emotion weight, solid songcraft) in favor of stale melodies, vacant lyrics, and clichéd bad-boy rock & roll posturing.
The third time – 2005's rootsy Howl – really was the charm for S. F. trio BRMC.