Like George W. Bush, the Los Angeles-by-way-of-San Francisco band Black Rebel Motorcycle Club can't give it to you straight but looks perplexed by efforts to be savvy. Named for Brando's gang in The Wild One, this trio echoes Dubya's political protocol that dresses up Reagan and Big Daddy's ideas and then tries to peddle them as the brainstorms of his own administration. And you especially shouldn't look to these mild ones for proof of rock's vim and vigor. Hailed for reverb-drenched guitar lines, My Bloody Valentine-type drones and lively performances, the Black Rebel boys--guitarists and vocalists Robert Turner and Peter Hayes and Brit transplant drummer Nick Jago--quickly made a big-name fan in their early days. Rising professional drinker and falling rock star Noel Gallagher reportedly tried to sign the band when he heard a single in the U.K., and after major-label courting, the group landed at Virgin, which released its debut, B.R.M.C., earlier this year.
Expectedly, the band isn't as interesting as its hype. It's fashion-plate punk that wants nothing less than to be fashionable: Who needs spiteful apathy when you can charge an edgy ensemble at Urban Outfitters? Such tracks as "As Sure as the Sun" and "Awake" dissipate into hollow guitar layers, redundant structures and wannabe British vocal deadpan. Elsewhere, the guys opt for ill-advised studio trickery. Look no further than "White Palms," a snoozefest that fades to a solitary guitar strum with a voice intoning, "I wouldn't come back if I'd have been Jesus/ I'm the kind of guy who leaves the scene of a crime." It's the type of adolescent pretentiousness that makes you want to do two things: Open mouth, insert gun.
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Worse are ill-advised attempts at wry self-awareness. "Whatever Happened to My Rock 'n' Roll (Punk Song)"--the parenthetical functioning like a footnote in Dave Eggers prose, pointing out the obvious just in case you're not hip and smart enough to get the allusion--makes the mistake of providing the best proof for its rhetorical question. What happened to your rock and roll? Fluff like this passed off as the goods.