Black Rebel Motorcycle Club Howl

With all the talk of a stylistic shift amongst the club of black rebel motorcyclists, many things remain equable: the hair, the monochrome wardrobe and the peppered references to Jesus (which one always felt could easily be followed by "and the Mary Chain”). Still, Robert Turner has reverted to his genuine surname (Levin Been) and the band have lurched towards the blues. But the familiar song structures haven’t been absented, and instead the gaps, once populated by jags of distortion, have been replaced by well-assimilated choirs, organs and blues’ harp. And while, intelligently, BRMC include no references to "the Delta” or "Poor Willie Brown,” Howl does present a difficult case for fan acceptance. The ballads, which once sounded like a less ornate, more excited Spiritualized, now sound like Keane. Yet the rootsy "Shuffle Your Feet” and "Ain’t No Easy Way Out” carry a near-authentic barroom lilt and are immitigably catchy. As with most transitional albums, Howl is a curate’s egg, resting half-way between what it doesn’t want to be and what it hopes to achieve. (RCA)