Sound Advice: : Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and Armor For Sleep

More concert previews of note

Apr 18, 2008 at 2:06 pm
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club with The Duke Spirit
Friday · The Mad Hatter

For the past decade, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club has been the sound of Rock's past crashing headlong into its future. Blending elements of the Blues-and-Folk-drenched Psychedelia of the '60s with the defiantly independent Garage Rock ethic of right now, the San Francisco-based trio has invested their four albums with a giddy, trippy heaviness.

BRMC began in 1998 when guitarist/vocalist Peter Hayes and bassist/vocalist Robert Levon Been, friends since high school, formed a band after Hayes' departure from the Brian Jonestown Massacre. The pair met British drummer Nick Jago, who had studied fine art in the U.S., and invited him to join. Initially known as the Elements, they changed it after discovering another band of the same name (Black Rebel Motorcycle Club was the name of Marlon Brando's gang in The Wild One), and began fashioning their Led Zeppelin-channels-Space-Rock sound.

BRMC's eponymous 2001 debut managed to generate some critical acclaim without making much of a splash at home (it charted in the Top 30 in the UK). Their 2003 sophomore release, Take Them On, On Your Own, capitalized on the first album's buzz and cracked the U.S. Top 50, while reaching No. 3 in England. By the time the band started work on 2005's Howl, changes were in the air. Been, who had billed himself as Robert Turner in an effort to distance himself from his quasi-famous father, The Call's Michael Been, decided to revert back to his given name. More importantly, Jago's substance problems were fracturing the band, which had been dropped by Virgin.

Jago walked out before the Howl sessions, resulting in a more spartan Folk-tinged album.

After a few rehab stints, Jago rejoined the band to record their fourth album, last year's incendiary Baby 81, a solid return to their howlingly epic Psych/Blues roots and further proof of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club's resilience and passion. (Buy tickets, check out performance times and find nearby bars and restaurants here.)

Armor For Sleep with Saves the Day, Set Your Goals, Metro Station and Lydia
Sunday · Bogart's

For fans and detractors alike, the term Emo conjures up very specific musical connotations. Although Armor For Sleep has been associated with Emo since their formation five years ago, the New Jersey quartet has largely transcended the genre's accepted standards and staked out new sonic and philosophical territory in the process.

Armor For Sleep (guitarist/vocalist Ben Jorgensen, guitarist PJ DeCicco, bassist Anthony Dilonno, drummer Nash Breen) coalesced in 2002 and signed with indie Equal Vision for their 2003 debut, Dream to Make Believe, which led to a relentless road schedule and a strong grassroots fan base. AFS's 2005 sophomore album, What to Do When You Are Dead, was a triumph of style and substance, a conceptual album that raised the bar for subsequent Emo bands to emulate and has sold nearly a quarter million copies in the three years since its release.

Armor For Sleep's new album and major label debut on Sire, Smile For Them, continues the band's hot streak of crafting songs that go far beyond the usual parameters of Emo. As opposed to the inward directed focus of the first two (particularly What to Do's intimate character study structure), Smile For Them turns an observant eye on the world at large to examine a society that is obsessed with celebrity, reality TV, chemically altered perceptions, a constant stream of increasingly banal information coming from the media and the Internet, generational apathy and heartbreak, the staple of Emo bands from the start.

Underpinning these big themes is AFS's equally expansive soundtrack of crashing and chiming guitars, burbling synths and a manically diverse rhythm section in the service of songs that are by turns melodically anthemic, frenetically thrashy and quietly powerful. In a genre whose proponents often rely on formulas to make their musical case, Armor For Sleep is a rare and welcomed original voice. (Buy tickets, check out performance times and find nearby bars and restaurants here.)