Black Rebel Motorcycle Club Baby 81

After releasing two space rock/late era classic rock-inspired albums in 2002 and 2003, San Francisco’s Black Rebel Motorcycle Club released Howl, the album that would garner them widespread attention. Their stripped down, bluesy swamp feel and folksy rock sound was irresistibly appealing to fans of Bob Dylan and the Jesus & Mary Chain. Fleshed out with full vocal melodies aplenty and harmonica grazing, laidback tunes, Howl established itself an essential album of 2005, finding itself near the top of many year-end lists. Fast-forward to 2007 and BRMC have presented us with their fourth full-length and least exciting work to date, Baby 81. What made Howl so great was its ability to sound so organic, honest and ripe. What we have here is a more commercial approach to their now only slightly original rock’n’roll. Baby 81 comes off sounding more self-assured than their previous material and it could be this loss of insecurity that makes BRMC sound a bit pompous and overly self-indulgent. These songs aren’t bad, and I’m sure magazines like Spin will give the boys grand thumbs up for moving out of their garage and towards the airwaves, but songs like "Berlin” and "Need Some Air” are missing the folksy blemishes that made BRMC such a comforting band. Fortunately, this album does have a few hits ("Killing The Light” is pretty indie rock) but unfortunately, they are clouded by the substantial amount of misses. (Sony BMG)