Specter At the Feast could have been a complete downer, and part of me wishes it was. For it’s the weepers here that resonate. This makes total sense, given Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s 2010 loss of Michael Been, the former frontman of The Call who also produced, mentored, and sound engineered the band. More importantly, he was Robert Levon Been’s father.
Always more introspective than BRMC second banana and faux hell-raiser Peter Hayes, Been sounds particularly lost here — and that’s a compliment. It’s not that his lyrics are gut-wrenching. It’s not that they’re specific. But there’s a pleading grief to them that can’t be faked. In closer “Lose Yourself”, he wanders through a cave of reverb held together by the bottom-heavy trudge of Leah Shapiro’s drumming. During the chorus, he claws at the stratosphere for a falsetto he never grasps. “Why won’t you lose yourself?” he asks with vulnerability. He might not be talking about his father’s death, or even his father at all. But there’s no doubt that the void informed his performance. The only time he sounds truly joyous on the album is when summoning the spirit of the elder Been on “Let the Day Begin”, a cover of The Call that transcends the original with its fuzz bass, fuller guitar workout, and absence of tinny synths.
Hayes, on the other hand, sticks to bullshit posturing, as if trying to recreate the boot-scraping swagger that trashed the garage when BRMC was released over a decade ago. “I’m a common cold / You want it? / Come and get it,” he taunts on “Teenage Disease”, a song that’s about as threatening as its title. Most of his tracks’ names are just as telling. “Rival”. “Sell It”. “Hate the Taste”. We get it. Each one sees Hayes reaching into the back of his throat for his yowliest of yowls while the bass muds it up and the guitars rip, roar, and ape The Jesus and Mary Chain. Call these cuts dark. Call them rockers. But they’re neither of these things when stacked against something much more simple and hard-hitting: sincerity.
Essential Tracks: “Lose Yourself”