BLACK REBEL MOTORCYCLE CLUB – Specter at the Feast

Album: Specter at the Feast

Artist: BLACK REBEL MOTORCYCLE CLUB

Label: Vagrant

Release Date: March 12, 2013

BRMC March 15

www.vagrant.com

BY DANNY R. PHILLIPS

It would have been easy to collapse, for Black Rebel Motorcycle Club to fall in onto itself like a black hole.  Instead, through their sadness and grief they produced the exceptional “Specter at the Feast.”  It was a sadness most profoundly felt by lead singer/bassist Robert Levon Been.

Prior to recording the album, BRMC’s sound engineer, producer, sometimes second guitarist  Michael Been (Robert’s father and former lead singer of The Call) passed away suddenly backstage at the Pukkelpop Festival in Belgium of a heart attack.  This undoubtedly shaped the direction of the record, as sadness runs throughout its 58 minutes.

Instead of taking this great loss and recording an album so dark and maudlin that it would make Ian Curtis seem like a stand-up comedian, the band recorded one that is more of a tribute than a eulogy.  Darkness, the macabre and love have given the band one of its best albums, perhaps their best since the acoustic “Howl.”

Specter at the Feast is at times, forbidding and fuzz filled.  Like most of their albums prior (the acoustic “Howl” excluded), there is the venomous, the vigorous (“Rival”), the reflective, looking back upon life (“Returning”), the songs that stall (“Teenage Disease,” the schmaltz soaked “Lose Yourself”) and an expertly done cover song.

“Let the Day Begin,” first recorded in 1989 by Michael Been’s band The Call, is a fuzzed out, driving tribute to a lost de facto band member, friend and father.  The song builds, tiptoeing toward pretension at moments but drummer Leah Shapiro saves it, holding it together, saving it from the abyss and making it one of the most sincere, faithful, most well done covers in recent memory.

There are less than stellar cuts on Specter.  “Teenage Disease” is self-important and too heavy handed, although it is one hell of a driving song.  “Sometimes the Light,” the track on the album that conveys the most stirring since of loss and mourning on Specter, is quite possibly the best song Spiritualized or Sparklehorse never recorded.

Specter at the Feast is not a perfect record by any means.  What it is, is a genuine, heartfelt, emotional record and a breath of fresh air because, sadly, sincerity is a thing that is nearly extinct in the music of today. 

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club has taken tragedy and shaped it.  They have squeezed every drop of emotion in order to celebrate, commemorate life and loved ones; it is an album that would most certainly make a father proud.

DOWNLOAD: “Let the Day Begin,” “Some Kind of Ghost”

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