After the fantastic work on Howl (2005), one could only wait with anticipation to see where the musically talented Black Rebel Motorcycle Club (BRMC) would go. On their fourth endeavor, Baby 81 – the name supplied the 6-week old boy discovered amidst rubble in the aftermath of the Indian tsunami in 2004 – the band shifts gears and once again revs up their rock engines, while moving away from that Americana-steeped masterpiece. Baby 81 doesn’t disappoint, but it isn’t as perfect a production as its predecessor was. If you were expecting Howl, you’re going to get something different.
Howl was a necessary disc in that it got attention, and now that BRMC has it, it’s back to the kind of music that they obviously feel most comfortable creating. This new album is a turn toward a heavier rock with definite influences. Some of Baby 81 is fast, pop-punk but with older influences wound through the music making the album a lot of fun to listen to. But not every song pushes air past your face as you listen. “Windows” is a very Beatles-like tune that helps as a signpost to Howl in hopes to bridge the albums, while “Cold Wind” and “Not What You Wanted” creeps towards the ‘70s styles. “All You Do is Talk” is a stroll into the ‘80s, OMD-like and is one of the gems of the album.
Having heard the grand side of BRMC, we now know what this group is capable of…and that puts the pressure on them to continually put out superior music. Their chameleonic charm and talents is the rope that draws us in. Baby 81 is an excellent album and one to be paid attention to. Baby 81 is a transitional work to be admired. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club is a band that I pay strict attention to – now that they have my attention.