Hmm. ‘Specter At The Feast’? We’re picturing a London-based indie band eating an ice cream. We’re not picturing eerie figures doing meaningful things at events rich with symbolism. Which was presumably the aim. Unless BRMC are holding an unexpected torch for Fred Macpherson.
It wouldn’t matter. Except here the swing-and-a-miss nature of the title is wholly prescient of the album itself. ‘Specter At The Feast’ falls short of achieving its goals, and that’s despite those goals being ones that you’d think they’d have a reasonable chance of achieving: this is Black Rebel Motorcycle Club trying to make a Black Rebel Motorcycle Club album.
An early Black Rebel Motorcycle Club album, before Peter Hayes and Robert Levon Been demonstrated their surprising knack for knocking out folky acoustic numbers that kicked the dirt, spat tobacco at the campfire and pondered the big questions. God. Saving souls. Whether their drummer would ever return. Back when it was all just fuzz, belligerence and whatever happened to my rock ‘n roll.
It means that ‘Specter At The Feast’ oscillates between grinding, distorted ones in thrall to the Jesus And Mary Chain and gospel-choired, string-bedded onesthat bask in a very Spirtualized-esque light. Neither of which are bad things, and there are occasions when ‘Specter At The Feast’ reminds you that BRMC are able to take a decent stab at both. So there is a great deal of grimy fun to be had, be it in the way the bassline of ‘Hate The Taste’ stomps through, leaving an oily trail in its wake, the squalling noise and vaguely threatening protestations of ‘Sell It’, and the spooky atmospherics of ‘Fire Walker’.
But perhaps the pertinent word back there is trying. For all the odd moments where it clicks, the overriding impression the album gives is one of a band going through the motions. There’s been talk of ‘Specter At The Feast’ being difficult to make, for reasons both traditional (the oft cited inter-band tensions) and tragic - Robert’s father, Michael, frontman of The Call and who they’ve likened to BRMCs’ fourth member, died during the making – but the weight of all that seems to drag everything down.
‘Some Kind Of Ghost’, ‘Sometimes The Light’ and ‘Funny Games’ are as inconsequential as a fart in a tornado; the anger with which ‘Teenage Disease’ is supposed to seethe comes across more like gastroesophageal reflux than genuine rage, while the closing and epic – in the ‘at least four minutes too long’ sense of the word - ‘Lose Yourself’ would clearly love to be blessed by Father Jason Pierce but ends up closer to having a conversation about fair trade with Chris Martin.
Given the circumstances it’s perhaps understandable, but ‘Specter At The Feast’ runs out of steam before it runs out of songs. Not a terrible album, just one lacking in inspiration.