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Let's Talk About Black Rebel Motorcycle Club

Updated: Jan 10

The coolest band in rock 'n roll, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club ranks #2 on my list of all-time favorite artists. I'm going to break down their discography and rank their albums, and of course talk about my favorite songs. For a little background, the band consists of Peter Hayes (right), Robert Levon Been (middle), and Leah Shapiro (left). Formerly, Nick Jago played drums, but in 2008 was replaced by Leah. From what I understand, they let Nick go but on good terms. They felt he was more focused on his own music than the band so they parted ways and he hasn't returned since.

I discovered them about a year and a half ago with their song 'Spread Your Love' and it was honestly a groundbreaking discovery. Have you ever had a moment where you heard a song or band and it just slid perfectly into a style of music you just discovered and didn't know you loved? That's how I felt about them, it was like a switch went off and they immediately became one of my favorite bands. Then again, I do love garage rock, and I feel like some of their music could be broadly classified under that, but it also has hints of country, typical 'rock 'n roll, and some of that mysteriousness Interpol also has. Overall just a super unique sound that I'd never heard before. I also want to preface this by saying these rankings are not taking into account any of the album expansions or additional tracks released after the original date of release. Also one more thing I want to point out, if I say "B.R.M.C", I'm referring to the album, but if I just say "BRMC" without periods then I'm referring to the band.

Albums Ranked

1. B.R.M.C.-2001

There's very few bands that are this good on their first record, and it never ceases to shock me every time I listen. To me, B.R.M.C. feels like being young, angst, going through heartbreak, trying to understand the world, and an eternal sadness that only music can cure. Some songs are really high, and others are really low. The high points from my perspective being Whatever Happened To My Rock 'n Roll, Spread Your Love, and Awake. And Love Burns depending on the day. The lowest lows are Too Real, Head Up High, and Salvation. In this context, I don't mean low as a bad term, I mean in it in the sense of the overall vibe the song gives off. Too Real is one of my favorite songs ever because I feel it understands people and the world better than anything else. Lyrically, it might be at the top of my list. I'm including the words below so you can read and reflect with them as well.

Don't wanna see what all these people see They all seem lost with what they've found Don't wanna hear what all these people hear It seems to tell them there's no sound Don't wanna fight who all these people fight It's only truth that's been denied Does it feel too real When everything you've learned to love seems to change? Does it feel too real When everything you love to fear seems the same? Don't wanna waste away my life-savings Too many feelings left to change No need to talk about the other side We learn to live our happy lives It's so good, you see just another day Learn to savor all the same Does it feel too real When everything you've learned to love seems to change? Does it feel too real When everything you love to fear seems the same? Do you turn out the lights, so you don't have to see yourself? Do you turn out the lights, so you don't have to see yourself? Do you turn out the lights, so you don't have to see yourself?

Does it feel too real When everything you've learned to love seems to change? Does it feel too real When everything you love to fear seems the same? Does it feel too real When everything you've learned to love seems the same? Does it feel too real When everything you love to fear seems the same? Does it feel too real?

Just a beautiful song altogether and I'm so happy that it exists, it's such a comforting track to me. Head Up High is definitely on that same wavelength too. It's a wonderfully crafted album in which each song has it's own uniqueness about it and is extremely angsty and/or emotional. I'm glad I had my 'coming-of-age' to this album, it's so special!

Top Five Songs

1. Whatever Happened To My Rock 'N' Roll (Punk Song)

2. Too Real

3. Spread Your Love

4. Head Up High

5. Love Burns

2. Baby 81- 2007

Baby 81 has the most raw rock 'n roll in it with songs Berlin, Weapon of Choice, Windows and Took Out a Loan. I also really love the cover on this one, it's super simplistic, and I actually just noticed as I was uploading this that the neck of the guitar is split. I'm sure that was conscious choice, I've never seen the band do something lyrically or visually that wasn't purposeful. I think it could represent some kind of divide within oneself, there's a lot of lyrics that reflect people being 'fooled', whether it be by the government, themselves, or simply the world.

In Windows, Robert sings "Turn your eyes from the window/So you won't see this world/The walls are closing inward/There's nowhere left to turn", and even in American X he sings "Close your eyes to the world that you see/And open wide to the one in your dreams". There's this reoccuring idea of shielding yourself from the world in front of you, so maybe that's where this split comes from: The person you are, and the person you want to be. I'm going to add some more lyrics below this that kind of feed on that idea as well

"So how's it going to feel/When you don't know what's real." (Windows)

"No one needs what they think to survive/Pulled inside with an appetite blind." (American X)

"Help yourself, don't think/Help yourself, don't speak/Help yourself, don't say a thing at all/You're lucky words don't bleed" (All You Do Is Talk)

"We're fools in need, fools to believe/We're all fools in need, too foolish to believe" (Berlin)

I could honestly drop the lyrics to the whole album and they would all apply. There's a ton of super strong themes in B.R.M.C., but on their thrid album, I think they've refined their songwriting even more. Each line has intent, none are just fillers, which is an amazing and unique part of this band. One of the songs that hit me the hardest is All You Do Is Talk, which I included lyrics from above. That song brings up a topic that I think about a lot but have never been anle to put into words, so when I first heard it, it really was a comfrot. "Help yourself, don't say a thing/What love you show won't mean a thing at all/If all you do is talk/Sadly we remain to see/What brings an end is also what we need/All you do is talk."

As always, incredible lyricism. I think this album is my favorite in terms of the songwriting and themes even though the songs on B.R.M.C. still rank number one. Baby 81 has brought solace to me in times when I needed it most, and that's something I can't express gratitude for enough.

Top Five Songs

1. Berlin

2. Windows

3. Weapon of Choice

4. All You Do Is Talk

5. Took Out A Loan

3. Take Them On, On Your Own- 2003

There is so much solid rock 'n roll on this album that's formative to their sound in my opinion. But, I've also said that about the other two albums I already talked about. Plus, this album holds my favorite BRMC music video ever, which is Stop. Incredible video that I actually recreated a bit of with some friends, if you want to watch it, it's under the portfolio tab on the main menu. Anyways, this is their second studio album and one that packs a punch like no other. Songs like US Government, In Like The Rose, and Six Barrel Shotgun all carry a guitar tone & sound that I've grown to associate with this band. It's very distorted and grungy, but not grungy in the Nirvana sense, more in an objective way.

I've also begun to hear their music and black and white. That's mostly the effects of the album covers I'm sure, but everything about this band has a specific color palette. The cover of this album is nice, but the B.R.M.C. will always be my favorite. One of the biggest traits that the band does consistently is create beautiful lyrics, even up through their most recent albums, and this is just another demonstration of that. One of my favorite examples is in US Governemnt, "I spit my faith on the city pavement/To keep a smile/I bought my legs from the U.S. government/To keep me in line". Heavy stuff. They have a way of being able to show their overall intention with lyrics but also leave it in a cryptic state that's hard to fully digest.

The compostion of In Like The Rose has to be my favorite on the album. The beginning of that track is insanely unqiue and just so Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. It's a song I like to listen to and pick apart in my brain, each individual piece is so intentional, from the quiet feedback in the beginning, to the guitar delays being perfectly timed, it's just perfect. That one is definitely my favorite with how great each individual piece creates a whole. Plus, again, the lyrics blow my mind. "In like the sun that falls on us all/Out of time but you can't let go/Into the dark you've stumbled alone/Out of sight now you can't return". The more I analyze individual songs and patterns within this band, the more I admire them. Their creativity is so unique to them, yet each song brings something new to the table. I mean, even the harmonies in this song are crazy. Such a great track.

This album and the two mentioned previosuly are really my core Black Rebel Motorcycle Club records, they're the ones I automatically go to for a full length experience. The rest are great too, but after this album really marks where they decline a bit in my book, even though every record is great. These three are just unbeatable.

Top Five Songs

1. Stop

2. In Like The Rose

3. US Government

4. Six Barrel Shotgun

5. We're All In Love

4. Beat The Devil's Tattoo- 2010

As I sat down to write for this album, I realized that I had no clue what "beat the devil's tattoo" even means, so I did a little research. To summarize what I learned off of the trusty interwebs, it's essentially when someone is drumming their fingers on a hard surface, which can be a sign of anxiety or impatience. It can be used just as a saying, but it was also used as a name for a race horse from Florida who was an exceptional competitor. So in context, soemone could say "you sure are beating the devil's tattoo!" if you were thumping your fingers on a hard surface, or in reference to the horse, "No one can beat the devil's tattoo, he's too fast!". There's even a news article form the early 1900s about Theodore Roosevelt, "And then he began to beat the devil’s tattoo on the armchair with the fingers of his left hand. He smiled very broadly when I asked him not to do that", the reporter wrote. There's many other examples, but it's a very uncommon saying these days, I'd never heard it before Black Rebel Motorcycle Club.

This was the first album that Nick Jago did not play on, and in his place Leah Shapiro stepped in, as I mentioned in the beginning. Leah is an excellent drummer and did great work on this record, including work with lyrics. The title track is also the opener, so starting off strong. They also did a great performance of it on Jimmy Fallon if you're interested. I think it's a perfect way to introduce the album, it brings the band back to a little bit more of what we heard in Howl, which I'll go into later. somewhere in between Howl and B.R.M.C for sure, but much less true rock 'n roll and more country influences, although nowhere near what Howl was. I usually have a pretty strong dislike for country music, or anything with country influences, but somehow I really enjoy what BRMC has done with the small country influences. It's sort if like I understand it, I know they find a lot of interest in old westerns. I know this movie isn't really a western, but they got their name from The Wild One, the Marlon Brando movie. Which by the way, I love that movie. Here's a clip.

Anyways, I'm getting off topic. There's a lot of strong points in this album, but there's also quite a few that really didn't make much of an impact on me. I love the title track, Conscience Killer, War Machine, and Aya. The issue is not that anything is bad, more just less good than the others, some songs don't stick out to me. There's also a lot of hamronica in this album which I think also makes me associate it with country music, especially in The Toll. Sweet Feeling and Evol are both nice songs, just kind of boring in my opinion, and that's how I see a lot of this album.

Top Five Songs

1. Beat The Devil's Tattoo

2. Conscience Killer

3. Aya

4. War Machine

5. Half-State

4, 5, & 6: Howl (2005), Specter at The Feast (2013), Wrong Creatures (2018)

I'm combining these three because they're the three that as a whole have had the least amount of impact on me. I have literally nothing to say about Specter At The Feast other than to me, it's the most generic BRMC album. There's not any one track that I have a passion for, I enjoy it all casually, but nothing near the leevl in which I love the first three albums. Fire Walker is okay, but still, it just doesn't compare. Kind of same deal with Wrong Creatures, except there's two songs I reaaly do love a lot, Circus Bazooko and Little Thing Gone Wild. I have never heard a song like Circus Bazooko, and it's become one of my favorite BRMC songs ever, I just wish I liked the rest of the album as much as that song. It's so unique, and a little creepy, in the most rock 'n roll way ever. Like I said, its so unique. I can't express how much I love that song. Little Thing Gone Wild was the other track that stuck out and kind of brings back their classic sound, but it's not even a fraction as good as Circus Bazzoko. I could talk about that song forever. As for Howl, it's a little too country influenced for me. Ain't No Easy Way is a BANGER though, that track will have me with the windows rolled down and screaming any time of day. Again, another album that didn't have a lot of impact on me minus one or two songs. I'm glad that after Howl they went back to their signature sound because that's the version of them I enjoy the most.

You may have noticed I didn't talk about The Effects of 333, and that's because I don't even really count it as an album. It's all just instrumentals, and part of what gives this band the effect they have is the lyricism and vocals, therefore making it an album not even worth my time. There was a significant decline in their work after 2010, but like I mentioned, nothing is bad, just less good than the others. They will always be one of my all time favorite bands because those first three albums are perfect. I hope their next album brings back what they did so well in the beginning of their career.

Lastly, I'm going to give you my cumulative top ten favorite songs overall by Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. It's been hard to narrow it down because I love so many songs, but I did it anyways. If I don't see this band live soon I will have a hernia. Thanks for giving me a few minutes of your time, I hope you found some new tunes!

Top Ten Songs (Whole Discography)

1. Whatever Happened To My Rock 'N' Roll (Punk Song)

2. Berlin

3. Windows

4. Circus Bazooko

5. Too Real

6. Spread Your Love

7. Head Up High

8. Love Burns

9. Ain't No Easy Way

10. In Like The Rose


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