With the return of drummer Nick Jago to their lineup after a prolonged battle with drug and alcohol addiction, the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s latest album Baby 81 should be considered a return to their previous form in the likes of their first two albums: BRMC: Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and Take Them On, On Your Own. For fans this will mean the heavily percussive booming stomp of Jago’s drumming, and the bluesy psychedelic guitar pyrotechnics of Peter Hayes and Robert Been switching back and forth. And although their lyrics sound stupid (it’s amazing how common songs written in the second person really are), they’re competent musicians. Much like their counterparts in the White Stripes, the Cummies and several other acts, BRMC come off like nostalgic reactionaries, turning away from the trends and focusing on old fashioned, blues-influenced, hard-charging rock and roll delivered with an elegant and unpretentious simplicity.
However, what might strike even the most ardent audiophile as a bit strange is the fact that despite their competency, the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club work for the most part doesn’t ooze with the same sort of obnoxious, bratty charm of Jack White, or with much of a bruising, urgent primacy and rebellion like the Cummies, especially since BRMC is so heavily influenced by some of the classics such as the Doors, Led Zeppelin and other great artists. Somehow I think that might have to do with the fact that Been and Hayes’ vocal range is extremely limited to a nasal drone which sounds terrible on the two ballads on the album: “Am I Only,” and “Killing the Light.” Other than those slight missteps, songs like “Berlin,” “Need Some Air,” and “Cold Wind” are outstanding examples of BRMC’s previous body of work.