The thing about the 90s, though, is that a lot of that era’s pop music holds up; Black Rebel Motorcycle Club just jumped the gun on the inevitable retro craze that’s just around the corner by never letting “alternative” rock die out. But they do inject it with a smidge of eclecticism that is pretty much essential for viability these days; grunge is too one-dimensional for today’s indiellectual consumer. You’ve got space-rock euphoria (“Bad Blood”, “Evol”) and slow, bass-driven fuzz (“War Machine”, “Aya”), which has always been part of the band’s trademark sound along with a quasi-tribal shuffle that’s pretty scarce on this album (maybe a hint in “River Styx”).All in all, BRMC is beating out most rock and roll bands by simply and blatantly being all about nothing but rock and roll. Vocalists Peter Hayes and Robert Levon Been have both perfected the lazy growl and the scratchy howl, and they write the kind of straightforward, beefy riffs that make even the most lethargic slackers want to at least bob their heads. If this is the last refuge for meat-and-potatoes rockers (just look at that band name and album title, for chrissakes), if this is the destiny of “classic rock”, we could do a lot worse.
You would’ve been forced to call this music indie rock or garage rock or maybe even grunge ten years ago, but nowadays there is no underground, and regardless of sales or airplay, this is pop music. Damn good pop music. “Conscience Killer or “Mama Taught Me Better” are songs Stone Temple Pilots would’ve been thrilled to come up with around the Tiny Music era (that’s a compliment, dammit!). If you disregard the lyrics, you could almost see “Sweet Feeling” or “The Toll” being a bonus track on one of the Use Your Illusion albums (sung by Izzy, obviously). So why is this not on the radio? Maybe because it’s not the 90s any more.