After dallying in left coast Americana and delicate Allen Ginsberg references for the last two years, the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club we know best—the faux-British, sunglasses-at-night version that delivered two albums of angsty Anglo-rock—has resurfaced at last.
And according to the hyperbolic British press, the fellas were mighty during their spring tour, delivering five or six new tracks nightly, usually including the nine-minute epic "American X." Nine minutes? Sounds demanding, right? "No thought involved really," mumbles co-frontman Peter Hayes from his Los Angeles home. And as anyone who's witnessed the band at work knows, he's sincere. Part of BRMC's charm is born from the same unconsciousness that—while generally acquitting the blokes as disinterested rock savants—also fuels their best anthems, many of which find their way onto album number four, Baby 81. A mostly rollicking return to their pre-Howl form of leather-clad rock revivalists, Baby 81 also reunites the band with original drummer Nick Jago, who played hookey on Howl after drug and alcohol problems landed him in rehab. But just as Jago returned, another facet of BRMC's rock went missing when bassist/vocalist Robert Levon Been's lyrics were stolen smack in the middle of recording.
"We were trying to figure out if it was something more than a random break-in for drugs or quick money," explains Hayes. "He had his lyrics in a bag with a computer and they took the whole thing. They're probably in a dumpster somewhere."
Along with concerns over the state of their neighborhood, BRMC seems politically surly on Baby 81, appropriate since its title—a reference to the child claimed by nine different families after being found on a Sri Lankan beach after the 2004 tsunami—suggests that today's BRMC has more on their minds than the source of their next martini.
The boys are back in town all right. Just as we remember 'em.