In what could easily pass as a piece on the Mad Max: Fury Road soundtrack, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club‘s latest album Wrong Creatures kicks off with a sound resembling a swarm of locusts, upbeat rhythmic drumming and Tibetan monk-style throat singing. A fuzz bass guitar line weaves in and out of audible range. This short, stark instrumental serves as an ominous precursor to an hour-long album eliciting visions of a journey through a vast desert landscape. For the most part, the band seems unwilling or unable to escape.
The San Francisco natives-turned LA locals enlisted much sought-after producer Nick Launay, a man who has previously worked with Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Arcade Fire, Silverchair, Supergrass and countless others. His hiring is probably a wise move, and his work here apparent, especially on album closer “All Rise”. This is a track which after an eight-bar piano intro, Nick Cave‘s crooning vocals would certainly not feel out of place. However, the track takes on a different feel soon thereafter, one which sounds remarkably similar to Coldplay‘s 2002 track “Politik”.
While the dynamic peaks are impeccably crafted, it seems a pity that the mix doesn’t bring the vocals to the forefront. At times, the absence of vocal presence regrettably leaves an impression of a lackluster performance on the part of singers Robert Levon Been and Peter Hayes. Tracks such as “Spook” instead rely on drummer Leah Shapiro to propel the song forward.
The shimmering guitar effects on tracks such as “Haunt” and “Calling Them All Away”, while aiding the desert-like sonic palette, somehow simultaneously contradict in their water-like quality. The instrumentation, and thus the steady, desert rock formula, rarely diverges from the straight and narrow path the band carve out at the start. “Ninth Configuration” takes on a sun-soaked, Hendrix-esque psychedelia in its verses with reversed guitar effects. However, the most notable example of when the band leave their comfort zone is “Circus Bazooko”, an unexpected, queasy carnival carousel soundscape overlayed with nonchalant rock sentiment.
BRMC really hit their stride on singles “King of Bones”, the blistering “Little Thing Gone Wild”, and “Echo”, an introspective and contemplative track with soaring guitar notes reminiscent of early Radiohead and U2. The addition of strings on this track aid in creating a wall of sound.
It has been said that Black Rebel Motorcycle Club deliver alternating hit and miss albums with each new release. Wrong Creatures is neither brilliant nor terrible, and perhaps worthy of a listen, if for no other reason than it serves as exception to the rule.