Ditching the indie Brit-pop stylings that made them an international sensation, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club has looked to the ’70s for inspiration. Howl, the band’s third album, switches out the trio’s usual raw garage sound for a batch of more mellow songs.
The band formed in the mid-’90s following such successful acts such as My Bloody Valentine and the Jesus & Mary Chain, but didn’t get noticed until 1998 when radio stations picked up on the band’s demo and played several tracks on air.
In 2001, the trio released B.R.M.C., which quickly established the group among their contemporary counterparts. “Love Burns,” “Spread Your Love” and “Whatever Happened to My Rock ‘N’ Roll” helped maintain the longevity of the record as it held on to the charts for more than a year. Take Them On, On Your Own was released shortly after, but failed to match the level of success of its predecessor. The album’s singles “Stop” and “We’re All in Love” floundered on the British singles chart and never found a space on competitive American alternative radio playlists.
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club decided to take a break and regroup, severing ties with Virgin Records while spending the next two years crafting the tracks that would become Howl.
The opening track, “Shuffle Your Feet,” is a sing-along track guided by an insanely irresistible handclap backing. There’s no doubting the inspiration behind this track, as “Shuffle Your Feet” sounds very much like a B-side from an early Rolling Stones record. Other standout tracks from Howl include “Promise,” “Fault Line” and the steel guitar-laden “Ain’t No Easy Way Out.”
The band purposely dismissed its roots with Howl in search of a more commercial sound that will guarantee them a few more stateside listeners. However, much of what made Black Rebel Motorcycle Club stand out was the unique sound and message that their records carry. Howl instead feels strangely similar to a record you discover while searching through a thrift store collection and stumbling across an unknown classic.
Howl has the quality music to back it up, but the band has lost an important element that helped define who Black Rebel Motorcycle Club was.