When diving into a new Black Rebel Motorcycle Club record, no one is expecting anything radically innovative. This is a band whose fanbase takes comfort in the predictable reliability of a faded pair of old blue jeans. Still, it would be nice to think that maybe there was some sort of authentic soul behind the lazy, formulaic dad rock. At a time when nearly all of their contemporaries have either thrown in the towel or changed with the times, the fuzzy garage rockers seem to have ignored their sell-by date, hoping their audience will be trusting enough not to check the label. But it’s nearly impossible to avoid the stench of revved up arena aesthetic turned sour on their eighth full-length album, Wrong Creatures.
From the album’s first non-instrumental song, “Spook,” the reluctantly middle-aged bad boys continue to demonstrate that they’ve made almost no artistic growth over the last two decades of recording music, churning out sluggish lines like “it takes a dead-end soul to kill a dead-end heart” before calling it a day. Whatever the intentions of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club initially were, they seem perfectly content passing off generic, edgy enough material that serves as the well-suited soundtrack for a beer commercial. A true embodiment of the obnoxiously repetitive nature of the record is “Calling Them All Away,” a nearly seven-minute jam with the insufferable habit of echoing lines over and over again until they have absolutely no meaning.
Toward the center of the record, the music becomes more easily digestible, taking advantage of mellow tracks such as “Haunt” and “Echo.” It is in these moments, which seem to come from a more genuine place, that the listener is reminded of the blues stylings the band so often pays homage to, and it becomes increasingly clear how they were able to craft appeal in the first place. Unfortunately, these tracks are undercut by the indiscernible mush which follows, leading up to “Circus Bazooko,” a calliope-induced nightmare that would be off-putting to even the most adamant BRMC diehards. It’s unsettling that this appears to be the only risk that the band is willing to take, and it never had even the slightest prayer of succeeding.
Wrong Creatures is built around “Little Thing Gone Wild,” one of the five singles inexplicably released leading up to the album. The track – aside from begging the question of what exactly “creature love” is – is unavoidably trapped in the past. The entire album is hopelessly clinging to a very specific moment in time, desperately trying to convince us that the band has “still got it.” It’s the rock-and-roll equivalent of the Expendables franchise. After making a couple more final gasps, the album closes with “All Rise,” the half-assed piano ballad you would expect from a record this profoundly unimaginative.
Between its warped-beyond-all-reason production, its religious dependence on reverb, its lackluster approach to lyricism, and its unfocused angst, Wrong Creatures seems destined to be reduced to background noise for a Harley-Davidson dealership.It is more of the same from a band far more notable for its reluctance to change than for any of its musical accomplishments. Even if you miss the days when squealing guitars ruled the radio, there are so many more potent ways to get your fix. By any standards, including the already bland ones set by Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s previous efforts, this record is disappointing.