There's always been something immediately attractive about BRMC. Like a well-scrubbed, polite cousin of the Jesus and Mary Chain, they've got the right influences, their music oozes with style and they don't fuck around with esotericism. But by leaning on them too often at the expense of fundamentals like originality and evolution, these virtues have also been their vices. That is, however, until their previous album Howl
came along. A near revelation, it left the glossy rock fuzz starkly behind and dug deep into the dusty American songbook, finding the blues, country, gospel and, somewhere in there, a real soul. Most importantly, it radiated an earnestness and authenticity that no one was sure even existed in this band. Though perhaps not quite the proverbial two steps back from this heroic leap forward, Baby 81
is indeed an ebb into their own comfortable ways. Opening with 'Took Out a Loan,â?� it hints at a marriage of the two styles with a grease-dipped, Black Keys'esque blues lick atop their signature brawn and swagger. But the glorious ghost of Howl
evaporates as soon as that song ends, only to be followed by a couple of straight-ahead rockers with dance-floor aspirations, the catchy, sonorous drive of the leading single 'Weapon of Choiceâ?� being the pick of the two. A couple of nice diversions come in the big melody of 'Not What You Wantedâ?� and the romantic majesty of 'All You Do Is Talk.â?� Apart from these moments, however, this album is all too familiar. And so, too, return the same old rubs. The criticism persists that, despite the pumping guitars, they sometimes sound a little bloodless. But one thing BRMC has always been is consistent, and with a fat, sexy sound driving the mostly solid songs throughout the album, that's what you have here. It's too early to know whether or not Howl
was just an aberration. What's certain, though, is that Baby 81
is back to business as usual, which isn't necessarily a bad thing when you're this good at it.