There's a bleakness, like the howl of blizzard, at the heart of Take Them On...Don't...
Derryck Strachan 2002
There's something dead satisfying and timeless about the coincidence of blistering rock 'n' roll& leather jackets. For some reason the pairing seemed to be off the agenda until Black Rebel Motorcycle Club emerged from what, judging by their curl-lipped and sunken eyed demeanour, could only be a smoke-filled subterranean rehearsal room in a dark corner of Hades. Their name comes from the Marlon Brando's biker gang in The Wild One - need we say more?
Boasting an awesome palette of sounds, their self-titled debut had more swagger than Jesus & Mary Chain's Psychocandy and more effects pedals than the Pixies back catalogue, chuck in the Nietzschean rumblings of The Doors and the squally guitars of Echo & The Bunnymen and you're definitely in the right ballpark.
The black leather jackets and black T-shirts are still there for this sophomore effort, recorded mainly in London's Fortress Studios in the aftershock of the debut. On first listen it sounds like a retread of their first album minus the effects and with a vogueishly garage feel to it.
It's definitely leaner, grittier. There's so much spiky fuzz on the guitars, it's an ear-lacerating experience first time round, like listening to heavy artillery from beneath the gun barrel. With the benefit of second and third listens the hot, heavy soul of this album begins to pump within, choruses suddenly leaping to the fore in twisted mantras.
The opening track, "Stop" (the first single) begins a brutal assault that barely lets up until the albums close nearly an hour later."Six Barrel Shotgun" rides roughshod over any fey, melancholic tendencies the band may have had previously, only for them to reappear later in the (almost) tender "And I'm Aching". Dual vocalists Peter Hayes and Robert Turner attend to their duties with the surliness of a scally at closing time, though such attitude belies the fact they're actually from Los Angeles.
There's a bleakness, like the howl of blizzard, at the heart of Take Them On... especially in its early stages. Though to suggest it's uncomfortable listening would be to ignore the visceral pleasures of being aurally scrubbed by this bruising rock. Tense and ferocious then, but all the better for it.