A Different Tunehttps://indianexpress.com/article/news-archive/web/a-different-tune-2/

A Different Tune

Their seventh studio album Specter at the Feast can be summed up in one word: mellow.

Album: Specter At The Feast

Band: Black Rebel Motorcycle Club

Music: Abstract Dragon

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Garage rock has always been a thriving genre in India,be it in the music industry,the underground alternative music scene or simply,among music lovers. The swings and lounge acts of the ’50s made way for psychedelic and garage rock,and bands such as The Rolling Stones,Creedence Clearwater Revival,The Velvet Underground,Led Zeppelin and The Doors have long became embedded in our collective musical consciousness.

So when American garage rock band Black Rebel Motorcycle Club (BRMC) came into existence in 1998 with the aforementioned influences and more,we had,in all our youth and glory,warmed up to their snarling grunge,with heavy doses of Zeppelin-esque rock. BRMC derives its name from Marlon Brando’s motorcycle club in his 1953 film,The Wild One. Despite dabbling in one too many styles such as blues,psychedelic and American blues and country,they appeared to take their garage rock revival seriously and their memorable pieces such as Beat the devil’s tattoo or Spread your love wore the spirit of rock on their sleeves. In short,they stood for everything their name connoted — masculine and uninhibited ripped-denims grunge.

However,their seventh studio album Specter at the Feast can be summed up in one word: mellow. Here,BMRC are anything but their usual selves. Much of this is because bassist Robert Levon Been’s father,Michael Been,also their sound technician and a dear friend,succumbed to a heart attack in 2010,and the members,perhaps in his memory,have turned to elegiac numbers. The pilot song Fire walker is a dark piece with heavy bass and percussion,in which vocalist-guitarist Peter Hayes growls Your soul was only yours to keep/ It’s buried in me now.


The other word that came to mind almost simultaneously for the album was young. There is something fresh about this album,almost like a new lease of life. Let the day begin and Teenage disease depict the scalding rebellion of one’s youth. Rival has the same punch. Lullaby,on the other hand,sounds fluid in its buoyant riffs and Hayes’ voice carries a sensual swagger.

Time and again we find the album mellowing down to psychedelic progressions,a change we welcome eagerly. Returning is a beautiful ballad for the departed,with lyrics that go A part of you is ending/ A part of you holds on with haunting drum rolls in the background. However,the highlight of the album is the wondrous piece Lose yourself,a Floyd-ian slow psychedelic song. Against the soft acoustics,Hayes intones the recurring You can’t keep quiet,you can’t even scream/ You hold it in your heart/ Leave the rest

to me. If,after years of sticking to a dirt-and-grunge format,BMRC opens its wounds like this,keeping its garage roots intact,we look forward to more such revelations. pallavi.pundir@expressindia.com