Black Rebel Motorcycle Club

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club sound like they are from the other California. Not the sun-drenched land of good vibrations and little deuce coupes, but the dark, desperate underworld of Altamont and the Manson murders, of the Doors and X and the Gun Club. With ES-335s and open-tuned J-200s they create a tough and brooding sonic landscape that owes more to Joan Didion’s White Album than the Beatles’.

BRMC bassist Robert Been and guitarist Peter Hayes, both singers, met innocently enough at their San Francisco high school. They copped their band name from the Marlon Brando rebel cult classic The Wild Ones, and recruited English transplant Nick Jago to pummel the drums during furious, adrenalized live sets. Over the last five years, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club have released four distinctly different albums, culminating with the upcoming, electrifying Baby 81, due out May 1.

Baby 81

After the tambourine-shaking, harmonica-howling, foot-stomping blues-rock foray that was 2005’s Howl, Baby 81 returns to the murky, electric darkness of their earlier work—supercharging the music with anti-authoritarian, confrontational lyrics that are rife with political paranoia and emotional desperation.

Presumably titled after the nameless child discovered on a beach after the Indian Ocean tsunami, Baby 81 is a study in the disparate directions one band can stray while remaining hinged to a core sound. There’s the sex-and-violence charged “Berlin,” which pronounces “I’m gonna um somebody” and “suicide’s easy,” and the atmospheric tug of “All You Do is Talk,” which suggests a surprising capacity for soaring arena rock. Then comes a suite of immensely lonely songs, their mumbled meanings almost lost behind Been’s thundering Gibson EB-2 bass. The first lines of both “American X” and “Windows”—beginning so similarly with “Close your eyes to the world that you see” and “Turn your eyes from the window so you won’t see this world”—suggest that the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s gothic worldview is both insular and unflinching.

As Black Rebel Motorcycle Club continue to make artistic leaps with each release, there remains one constant in their sonic set-up: their Gibsons, with the band favoring the ES-335 and the EB-2 during their big and brilliant live shows and a J-200 during smaller venue performances. Of their willingness to go from electric to acoustic, Hayes has said, “For us rock ’n’ roll is more than just electric guitar. Johnny Cash kinda proved that a little bit. There’s a feeling; there’s a spirit about it.”

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club is touring the U.K. throughout the spring and summer.
Check out their tour dates here

Listen to "Weapon of Choice"