There is an old saying that the apple doesn't fall from the tree.
On Black Rebel Motorcycle Club's third release Howl,
this classical maxim seems to fit neatly. Robert Turner and
Peter Hayes seem to have forsaken the noisy, tight maelstrom
of Take Them On, On Your Own and turned the BRMC machine towards
a more traditional Americana direction
Coming ever closer to
the direction in which Turner's father's band was ever heading. This
new direction in the bands sound can most accurately be defined with
what I would term a low lonesome sound; incorporating elements of
bluegrass/folk and old country into their already thick and dark rock
and roll base. But the lyrics are where the similarities really draw
close. The words of Howl are dark and intense, steering the
album in a dogmatic quest for grace and the eventual rise of the human
Almost in its entirety, Howl relies more on acoustic instruments
than the supersonic walls of guitar that have previously defined BRMC's
work. The album starts off with the sonic stomp of "Shuffle Your
Feet", reminding immediately of a more profound and dark "Honky
Tonk Woman". Acoustic guitars carry the music under the brilliant
lyricism and over the ambient talking in the background. The stage
is set for what is to be the greatest BRMC album yet. "Howl"
introduces organ into the sound, recalling the unique gospel influence
that is found all over the record, as well. "Devil's Waitin'"
is an amazing song, just Peter and his acoustic guitar, belting out
what could be interpreted as a modern spiritual; full of soulful depth,
immense heart and a wild holler. The lead single is "Ain't No
Easy Way", and it is readily apparent why. The song is built
once more on a heavy stomp rhythm, but builds in some excellent delta-style
slide guitars and wailing harmonica. This song recalls the past BRMC
readily, while showing an amazing maturity and transformation in the
The record takes turns to the right or left, steering into more acoustic,
clean passageways ("Still Suspicion Holds You Tight"), gospel-filled
ballads ("Promise"), deep southern blues alleys ("Restless
Sinner"), and a more traditional folk sense ("Complicated
Situation"). The serenity of "Gospel Song" is a welcome
respite from the sometimes overly heavy music on Howl, even
though the lyrical themes maintain the same sense of mortal questioning
and search for grace. "The Line" is a perfect album closer,
with its dramatic and highly tuneful dirge of vocal and dark organ.
Simply put, Howl is a brilliantly spun album full of heart
and incredible depths of emotion and sound reminiscent of truly classic
American music, while bringing that music well into the 21st century.
The sonic spectrum of the band still exists, but the sound has been
focused into a tighter band, and the noisiness tamed in a most appealing
way. The songs all tend towards a slow dirge, exactly as one would
expect from BRMC, focused much more on the darkness and deep hollows
of Appalachian tradition than the brighter, more celebratory side
of mountain music.
1. Shuffle Your Feet
3. Devil's Waitin'
4. Ain't No Easy Way
5. Still Suspicion Holds You Tight
6. Fault Line
8. Weight Of The World
9. Restless Sinner
10. Gospel Song
11. Complicated Situation
12. Sympathetic Noose
13. The Line
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