The turn of the century saw a pretty profound plethora of great neo-psychedelic shoegaze bands… However, none seemed quite so promising or managed to deliver to the same degree as San Francisco garage rockers Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, or B.R.M.C.. It’s now officially been 20 years since they began and 17 years since their first LP. Earlier this month Black Rebel Motorcycle Club released their eighth full-length, Wrong Creatures, on Vagrant Records, and they’re currently on an extensive US and will find themselves headlining Union Transfer next Tuesday, January 30th. I’ve been slightly out of touch with the hyper-cool, leather-jacketed trio in recent years, but their first three records (primarily their genius debut and Howl, their third album, where they explore Americana to a shockingly successful degree) remain cemented on the soundtrack of many of my most formative years and, according to setlists.com, many of those songs still remain in regular rotation in their live show. Here’s a reminder of 10 of B.R.M.C.’s most brilliant works from their early years.
- “Rifles” B.R.M.C.
Although it doesn’t call attention to itself as brashly as some of their other most noteworthy early works, “Rifles” proves to be as politically potent as anything the band ever wrote, ringing of the perfect soundtrack to a fuzzed-out ‘60s dance party for those desperate to fuck shit up.
- “Spread Your Love” B.R.M.C.
This fuzzy piece of funk is the perfect example of where “blues rock” (thought to be forever lame-ned by whiteness) can meet with the kind of subversive garage embraced by all the greatest subcultures of the golden age of subcultures, for something that grooves as hard as it rocks.
- “Shuffle Your Feet” Howl
Although the idea of rock bands attempting gospel has long been laughable (I suspect largely thanks to Bono… “Thanks…”), this tune is just as sincerely and simultaneously soulful, brooding, uplifting, and haunting as anything that could have possibly found its way to rock radio in the past twenty years.
- “Red Eyes and Tears” B.R.M.C.
It’s very hard to tell whether this super dark, yet ultra-sexy, number is a sequel, prequel, or counterpoint to “Venus in Furs,” or possibly none-(or-all-of)-the-above, yet it is nearly as satisfying…
- “White Palms” B.R.M.C.
Keeping in line with their previously alluded-to influences, “White Palms” sounds as much like an improvised number from a house band at Max’s Kansas City as you could ever hope from someone better suited, agewise, to be your super cool older cousin than the coolest uncle or grandparent ever.
- “Sympathetic Noose” Howl
Of all of their early output, there may be no better example of contemporary psych rockers enamored with classic Americana than this. While the past doesn’t necessarily seem to be a safety blanket of theirs, there’s also no desire to modernize those sounds simply for the sake of it.
- “Love Burns” B.R.M.C.
Sans The Cure’s Bloodflowers, “Love Burns” was the first 10-star breakup song of the 21st century (It’s later inclusion in Michael Winterbottom’s beyond-brilliant 9 Songs didn’t hurt its legacy either.)
- “Complicated Situation” Howl
Although this track may be a less diverse or complex amalgam than many found on Howl, it’s also just shy of proof that no one is better suited for carrying on the spirit of The Times They Are a-Changin’ than this particular group of leather-clad 21st century hipsters.
- “Six Barrel Shotgun” Take Them On, On Your Own
Although the boys were criticized by some for hardening up the rock and politicizing the prose on their second LP, this track, which kicks psych rock up to breakneck speed and doesn’t shy away from the literal bloodiness of so many false revolutions is literally next to the best thing they’ve ever done.
- “Whatever Happened To My Rock ‘N’ Roll (punk song)” B.R.M.C.
Is it true that Black Rebel Motorcycle Club very likely recorded their best song on their first album? Yes. Is it true that they very likely recorded the best Rock ‘N’ Roll anthem since The Stooges or The MC5? Yes… and that’s what should fucking matter…