Mired in tragedy, Black Rebel Motor Cycle Club‘s seventh studio album, Specter at the Feast, is an open book – a release to cope with the loss of Robert Levon Been’s father, Michael Been. The problem is that it was roughly a three-year mourning process, and it pretty much plays out that way, like one long eulogy where the emotions lose themselves to anemic instrumentation. The styles that once were a testament to their range now just sound dated and forced – melodrama better suited for a winter release, rather than spring. And lyrically, much like the rest of the album it’s one giant step back. Here are five examples of how emotional honesty doesn’t necessarily equate to quality work.
In terms of covers, “Let the Day Begin” does everything it can to pay homage to the original while still standing on its own two feet. And stand on its own two feet it does, albeit with two crippled knees. Lyrically, it’s as straightforward as it comes – banking on the nativity of convenient criticisms – so no surprises there. But it’s the delivery that makes this a flop. Beem just can’t seem to synchronize himself with the song – maybe it’s too close to home. If anything it’s Peter Hayes‘ guitar that does most of the talking: [LISTEN]
It’s the winners of the human race
It’s the losers in the game
It’s the soldiers of the bitter war
It’s the wall that bares their name
BRMC rehashes the old Frankenstein story: man builds society, man gets corrupted, man makes monster, man is monster. “Teenage Disease” tries to be this generation’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” – right down to the bullish groans. And while it does drive with a sort of reckless abandon it pushes about as hard as a soft breeze. It desperately wants to be rebel music, but its lyrics, meaning the writer, don’t seem to understand the desperation of what it means to be alienated. What it meant for Dr. Frankenstein and his creation, and every adolescent out there without a voice: [LISTEN]
Surprise you got a head full of lies
I’d rather dies than be living like you
I’m a teenage disease
There’s supposed to be an ebb and flow to this album, a tide that reflects the emotions of BRMC. “Lullaby” is supposed to be that soft wave that smooths out the coastline, but the drastic shifts in emotion make it hard to sympathize with; yearning becomes whining, and longing becomes bellyaching, which sours the good intentions underlining the album. It’s sad, but in a terribly awkward way, like seeing your dad cry: [LISTEN]
You are the sun to the Earth
You are the light of this world
Won’t you see
Why won’t you see?
“Lose Yourself” is a good ending to a bad album, a flavorful morsel that leaves a bitter aftertaste. The ambiguity of the lyrics blur the portrait, and the airiness of the instrumentation tries to push you over the edge. To bring you back to the beginning of the album as if you wanted to experience the emotional excursion all over again. It’s incredibly melodramatic. But again, if that was BRMC’s intent then good for them – it must have been tough losing someone so close – but that doesn’t mean it should be as glossy and self-indulgent as it is: [LISTEN]
You can’t keep quite, you can’t even scream
You hold it in your heart
Leave the rest to me
If Bob Ross woke up to one song every morning this might be it. “Sometimes the Light” is full of happy little clouds and tall evergreens and tiny cabins next to quiet little ponds. It’s the corniest song on the album, and certainly one of the most emotionally charged. It’s in direct contrast to some of the heavier songs, which leaves it in this state of arrested development. Love is the overriding theme here. And to some extent it succeed. But to have this drone on and on makes for a queasy ride.
Sometimes the fallen is all we know
I leave your picture inside the room
For I’ll remember all we could
Sometime the light turns out too bright