Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Shepherd's Bush Empire, London

Hollywood's Goths have propulsion but run out of gas

Steve Jelbert
Tuesday 03 December 2002 01:00
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To many British music critics California's Black Rebel Motorcycle Club are a bit of a joke. Why would anyone from the sunshine state so determinedly recreate the sound made by British indie strivers like Jesus and Mary Chain, Spaceman 3 and My Bloody Valentine? This is the soundtrack of their own drab youth and who wants to be reminded of that?

But, as any Brit who has ever seen Hollywood's Goths in white foundation and black clothes in 90 degree heat can testify, at a distance anything seems exotic. Clearly, while a part of British youth was blown away by Seattle bands who couldn't fill a bar in their home town, their American counterparts were equally intrigued by our own mumbling hopefuls.

To be fair, BRMCC fit into the same noisy pop tradition as T Rex, all fey vocals over rowdy guitars. Don't forget that Marilyn Manson sold millions by recontextualising Gary Glitter.

Just like their antecedents, BRMCC have not a whit of stagecraft about them. But they do make a very big sound. Peter Hayes (or is it Robert Turner – personality is not a strong point) coaxes a monstrous racket out of an innocent-looking guitar. And, from time to time, they have an undeniable way with a tune. "Spread Your Love'' borrows the riff from that wedding reception favourite "Spirit In The Sky'' to better effect and "Red Eyes And Tears'' boasts an irresistible guitar hook.

Sadly, too many songs possess the curse and blessing of instant familiarity, rendering them indistinguishable. This equally applies to their appearance, something no rock band deliberately plans.

They have some virtues. Hayes (or is it Turner?) plays some excellent bass lines in the style of a lead guitarist and their drone sound is at least far more propulsive than many of their influences ever managed.

Ultimately, however, what is the point of this? They play lots of new songs which all sound like their old songs, which sounded like someone else's old songs. Yet each one suffers at the tame beats of Nick Jago, their English drummer, who lets each tune lose momentum.

A band which ends its set with "Whatever Happened To My Rock 'n' Roll" at 10.10pm, when a proper gang should be fighting or trying to revive one of their number has just answered its own question.

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