Wrong Creatures doesn’t do much to challenge detractors.
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club was one of the coolest bands of the early ‘00s garage revival, endowed with unimpeachable retro aesthetics. Their black clothing, dark shades, fuzzy guitars and detached vocals earned them not-inaccurate comparisons to the Jesus and Mary Chain.
Their self-titled 2001 debut was loaded with instant classics. But B.R.M.C. proved to be an unexpectedly polarizing band, especially for the dark Americana sound of their underrated third album, Howl. On their next albums they hewed closer to the sound they were originally known for, to satisfying though not always especially memorable effect.
Unfortunately, Wrong Creatures doesn’t do much to challenge detractors. The instrumental opener “DFF” is striking, with its ominous, percussive mood, but once the “real” songs begin, it becomes clear that the tracks are overlong and somewhat plodding, and the grooves fairly predictable. If this was their first album, that would be one thing, but for an album that marks their 20th anniversary as a band together, listeners expect more.
To their credit, they are still able to switch up the pace effectively when they want to, as on “King of Bones,” which boasts compelling vocals and an almost industrial, Reznorian drive, and the song that follows, the slower, Cave-like “Haunt,” which slithers by at a reptilian pace. But one longs for much more from songs like “Questions of Faith,” which have potential, but do not remind us of what makes the group memorable.
“Ninth Configuration,” once it swells with intensity in its latter half, gives us a sense of where the band’s uniqueness resides—it is by far the best song on the album. “Little Thing Gone Wild,” too, has enough swagger to be enjoyable. The suitably carnivalesque “Circus Bazooko” at least has novelty to speak for it, with a Beatlesian/Brit-Pop sound that is a welcome departure from the rest of the album—one wishes for more of this stylistic indulgence.
But songs like these do not have much company. The psychedelic “Calling Them All Away” is too indebted to Jason Pierce for its own good (a charge the band has encountered before), and its Indian influences are far too cliché. “Carried from the Start” reminds us of B.R.M.C. of yore, but has little to no new character. Album closer “All Rise” actually suggests the beginning of a quite different album, with a greater focus on melody and pacing, like The Verve meeting Mercury Rev, but its grandiosity comes too late to change one’s sense of the album as a whole.
This is an odd band. They are talented musicians with a great ear for production, but it has proven remarkably difficult for them to match their earlier efforts. The songs on Wrong Creatures will likely make for engaging concerts, but it will take much more than this to make a truly enduring album.