review archive

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club / Vue Astoria, 26th February 2002

''The Mary Chain were incredibly young-looking and insect-like. They looked very small and very frail. They did their thing blasting away there, and it was extremely loud and fuzzy'…
William Reid crouched facing his amplifier. The feedback from the PA was a continuous screech that greedily ate up all the sound around it. For the elder Reid, it was less a case of being unable to control it and more a case of being unable to stop it...
'It was a mistake. Anybody else would have stopped, but they just carried on. The feedback was the thing that made it sound totally mad'…
'All I know is that they weren't angry about it. Far from it. They thought it was great.' So pitiless and unyielding was the feedback that no one could be certain when one song had ended and another begun…
'All I could hear was a complete and utter maelstrom of noise.''
- The Creation Records Story: My Magpie Eyes Are Hungry For the Prize by David Cavanagh

bring us your rock, baby

San Francisco; what a happenin' city, and one for which Kitten holds a certain fondness: the stinking sea-lions; the wibbling roads and asthma-inducing hills; trying to follow the diminishing descent of a penny thrown from the woozy heights of the Golden Gate bridge, and failing as it completely fades from your radar before it hits the briney depths below; Haight Ashbury turning out to be Camden without the pubs; the European feel to the place which comes as something of a relief to an English cat motoring around California…

Hmm…Snap back to tonight: The Astoria, London, Eng-Land, middle of winter. Two SF bands bring us their rock, baybee (although BRMC are now based in, eeyuw, LA.).

Vue (not 'The View' as NME would have it, poor journalism? Surely not!) seem to be a pick 'n' mix assortment of popster lookie-likies. There's Gerard Malanga on bass, Keith Richards on vocals/guitar, all ratty hair and ripped glitter shirt, and er, a member of Birdland, peroxide moptop a-flop, on guitar. Then there's drummer, Rafael, who gets to emerge from behind his kit later during an instrument swapping sesh that sees him hurtling about, guitar swinging whilst singer Rex beats on the floor tom and Birdland bloke Jonah (did they make these names up?) lays into his harmonica with a flourish- head-dipping, arm waving. Driving along on keyboard amidst this mess is shabby-seventies-chic chick, Jessica.
pick 'n' mix assortment of popster lookie-likies
The sound is Stonesy, bluesy, raw rock riffing and hollering. Too 'Exile On Main Street' to be garagepunk, unless you count The Chocolate Watchband who had the same r'n'b filtered through garage swagger that gets glimpsed tonight. There are shades of 'Telegram Sam' in one rumble tumble groove and a long Televisiony jam in another. Is this where Stonesy shuffle-r'n'b meets NY punk? Another slower song is groggy, guilty, drug-addled, 'You taste so sweet'. Kitten can almost smell the velvet cushions smouldering as the incense ash drops. She's been round these parts before with Thee Hypnotics.
Vue pull all the right poses; leaning backwards out of guitar riffs, high-kicks, the odd Screaming Jay screech, firing a guitar neck into the ground. It's all a bit too pat, a tad tribute-bandy, they've obviously got their thang together, trouble is, it's been lot's of other people's thang before. As if to prove this, the final song is a rather pointless rendition of The Velvet Underground's 'I Can't Stand It'. Right.

Kitten wants to love BRMC: scuffed leather, holey sleeves, clunky boots, sub-Wiiliam Reid-do, Wayne Kramer hair 'n' sidies combo, cute drummer, dirty fuzzed-up guitars, black silhouettes on white light. Check, check and check, no cute drummer, just some geezer from The Verve. Darn. In fact, Kitten is giving the band a second chance, having seen and remained non-plussed a few weeks earlier at BRMC's third on the bill slot at an NME Brats show (during which Kitten overheard a girlie waiting excitedly for Lost Prophets announce her disappointment that BRMC weren't really bikers).

Tonight, Matthew, the sound is a lot better and a whole lot louder. Something is still missing though. Hey, the tunes are catchy, especially 'Spread Your Love' with it's low down, dirty fuzz, hip-swinging groove. The guitars crunch and buzz and make your teeth chatter, but there seems to be no connection between the music, the band and the audience. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club are The Jesus And Mary Chain you can eat between meals, you think they're going to be satisfying, but they leave you feeling kind of hollow.

Robert William-hair
those crazy Yanks, eh? Where once we had Jim Reid's mic-stand hurling tantrums, screaming, 'It is heart and soul' with all his er, heart and soul, we now get Robert William-hair and that Wayne Kramer bloke murmuring demurely behind their mics, rocking gently back and forth, kicking their motorcycle-boot clad heels up behind them. 'Tis true on first hearing, swathes of the BRMC album reminded Kitten most of Chapterhouse, maybe a touch of Ride, so could this be part of the weird shoegazing revival that seems to be taking place in the States currently (those crazy Yanks, eh?).
Then, to top it all off, the band returns for an encore with Vue in tow and proceeds to 'jam' in a rather self-concious wonky hippy wig-out baby manner. Is this what happens in San Francisco? Whatever, despite leaning over the front barrier and concentrating really hard, Kitten just can't get BRMC to work properly. Still, maybe she'll give them just one more chance. Maybe if they had their proper drummer. Maybe she should try again in May…
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