In the Doonesbury comic strip, resident musical chameleon Jimmy Thudpucker shamelessly shape-shifts to adapt to the moment's hot sound, be it grunge, young country or the Great American Songbook. Rarely in non-fictional rock music do such genre-jumps work, but in the case of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, the band not only adapts – it flourishes. After two records of highly underrated, dark and dense rock with sheets of guitar noise – and being not-so-accurately lumped into the Great Garage Rock Revival – BRMC found themselves literally born again with last year's Howl. More Jesus than Jesus and Mary Chain, the unabashedly Americana-bent CD hardly sounds like the same band, with plenty of steel guitar, songs of sin and salvation and even – gasp! – handclaps. Alternating uptempo tracks ("Shuffle Your Feet," "Ain't No Easy Way"), mordant musings ("Fault Line," "Sympathetic Noose") and tent-revival sermons ("Restless Sinner," "Gospel Song"), the trio (guitarists/singers Peter Hayes and Robert Levon Been along with British drummer Nick Jago) has crafted a real gem, at times both intricate and deceptively simple. The boys also seem to be having a good time, which is quite a shift from their previous dour persona. For all the twang and holy rollin', though, the band's recent live shows haven't skimped on more raucous early material like "Whatever Happened to My Rock and Roll?" and "Six Barrel Shotgun." Who would've thought that, in the time it took the Vines to grow tangled and the Hives to clear up, it would be the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club to emerge triumphant from that dank garage with something more lasting than a three-minute record?
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