By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Steve Brennan
By Joseph Hess
By Allsion Babka
By Kelsey McClure
By RFT Music
By Christian Schaeffer
By Gabriel San Roman
Black-clad cads with doomy sounds and rumors of biz connections (bassist/vocalist Robert Levon Been's dad is the Call's Michael Been) are still easy targets, though. And the members of BRMC have taken their hits in the past, especially around the release of their 2001 self-titled debut, which arrived in the post-Strokes/Hives signing-frenzy era where anything remotely greased of the garage was lumped together. But BRMC formed within a Cali psych-pop scene in 1998 making them actually ahead of the curve of Jesus and Mary Chain-inspired shoegazer bands blasting away today (Black Angels, Darker My Love, Black Mountain). And 2005's rootsy Howl gained them some crit cred, although the hipsters seemed to have moved on.
Despite Baby's occasionally bitter-bitten lyrics, however, the music is the most stimulating the band has created so far. The upped amps and rowdier rhythms may at first feel like return to the band's earlier squall of sound, but Hayes laughs and says, "That's a catchphrase that's come up 'a return.' But this album was drawing from Howl a lot, actually. It's just plugging the guitar back in. But instead of attacking you the whole time, we're trying to find some more to it." The "more" comes in as the Nirvana-nudged "Cold Wind" and the Lennon-esque la-las of "Window" and "Not What You Wanted." But overall, the album retains Howl's stripped-down production louder guitars, yes, but not with the layered distortion waves of the first two records.
Indeed, Baby 81 contains a mood of rattled but enduring confidence. The group even culls from its archives a tender, acoustic teen-era tune, "Am I Only." "That's one I wrote when I was seventeen," Hayes says. "I always shied away from it because I didn't like how it rhymed. But it's a good song, y'know, and I guess I shouldn't worry about that too much. There's nothing wrong with being seventeen and writing a song like that. [This album] is like a definite closure, in that we're about done introducing ourselves to people." Eric Davidson
Genesis 1976-1982 (Rhino) was released on Tuesday, May 15.
8 p.m. Sunday, May 22. Pageant, 6161 Delmar Boulevard. $15. 314-726-6161.