Art can find purpose by offering cultural commentary, and the possibilities to do so abound in today’s sociopolitical climate. But instead of capitalizing on the issues, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club continues to skirt them. Nothing more than another inside-the-box rock album, Wrong Creatures is a 59-minute bland and timeworn ride that fails to make any statement besides one: 2018 will not be the year of garage rock revival.
Five years after the release of Specter At The Feast (2013), the band has regressed even further into convention, with few signs of growth. BRMC’s biggest weaknesses continue to be their ineffective storytelling and apprehension towards making bold critiques. “Spook” is a charged anthem whose lyrics are at best incoherent and at worst meaningless. Unclear at whom, if anyone, the chorus’s lustful declaration is directed—“I’ll be your innocent (Lie, lie, lie)/ I’ll be your last mistake (you take, you take)”— the song comes and goes aimlessly. Likewise, “All Rise” is not a rallying cry, despite any suggestion in the title, but an empty love song of unfitting rhymes that gives the impression of being written before the lyrics.
The influences of producer Nick Launay, known for his work with Nick Cave, become evident on “Haunt.” It’s the first palatable track on the album, slowed down and sporting Cave’s signature gothic croons. “Echoes” is also pleasantly reigned in, liberation from an otherwise tedious work, although too derivative of breakout U2 to claim much originality.
The 20 years BRMC has under their belts is not without explanation. Musically, they have plenty of talent between the three members: Leah Shapiro maintains steady rhythm on kit and Robert Been and Peter Hayes are capable of blending guitar and bass into a distorted stew that brews and swells but never muddies.
Those elements alone could make for an engrossing album, if only the band’s songs were not meticulously-crafted to the point of banality. “DFF,” the intro track, is filled with anxious drum beats and throaty growls—as if attempting to summon a human wolf pack of dazed and confused Zepheads, desperate for a lingering whiff of rock and roll—and sets hopes too high. What follows is neither chaos nor lawlessness but an unintriguing abidance to rock formula and a rebelliousness that is merely professional, running no deeper than the trio’s trademark leather jackets.
The platitudes that once worked in the genre won’t cut it anymore. In 1990, Wrong Creatures could have generated waves, but in 2018, it will be lost in the noise of its own, tired reverb. After 20 years, it could be time for BRMC to retire the amps—or at least the leather jackets.