Back in the latter half of 2001, I was introduced to the black-and-white covered CD of "B.R.M.C.", the first album of the curiously named rock band Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, and I came face to face with a trio of vacant expressions, tufts of dark, shaggy hair and slick-looking leather jackets.
Here was a fresh garage blues-rock sound, with the fierce and raw guitar blasts of classics "Whatever Happened to my Rock n' Roll" and "Love Burns", as well as the epic riff of "Spread Your Love", my personal favourite.
In February of 2002, I got the chance to catch them at Southampton Guildhall, supported by the Cooper Temple Clause, and the tremendous bass rumbled through the thin floor and up the spine in pant-wetting fashion, turning the front few rows into a giant, leaping hedge that threatened to crash right through into the basement.
On stage, the vocals are shared between guitarists Peter Hayes and Robert Levon Been - the dirgy yet mellow voice of Hayes and the backing screeches of Been contrast nicely and create two very different sounds.
Been is the most active on stage, leaping with the frantic pace of a number of songs, while chilling out on some of the others, as the quality of Black Rebel is in that they've never been one style of music repeated over and over - each song on each album has a different tone and speed (the albums vary widely also).
"B.R.M.C." was followed by "Take Them On, On Your Own", bringing forth a more mature sound as well as a more consistently good batch of songs to its predecessor, with tracks "Stop", "Six Barrel Shotgun", the original "In Like the Rose", as well as the heavier and speedier "Rise or Fall".
All the while, trouble was had with drummer Nick Jago, and he was dropped by the time the third album "Howl" was produced.
"Howl" was a different beast altogether, filled with mostly acoustic guitars and a very blues/folk sound, straying away from the heavy rock of the past two albums, but it certainly didn't disappoint, especially with the toe-tapping tracks "Ain't No Easy Way", "Fault Line" and "Weight of the World".
"Baby 81" then is the band's fourth album, released in 2007, and saw the return of troubled drummer Nick Jago, returning the band to the roots of its first two albums, firmly embedding their masterful competency of duet, cracking guitars and riffs, original sound and despairing lyrics.
Black Rebel have never been depressing in their sound, and offer rather a confidence to get on with the world no matter how shit it is, beating out strong sounds and fist-punching drumming.
"Baby 81" begins with the back-to-the-basics of "Took Out A Loan", lending on the strength of Peter Hayes' vocals and some cracking guitar work, including a dizzying, face-melting solo towards the end.
Flowing straight on from the last note is the top-notch "Berlin", including some excellent lyrics 'Fighting just to breathe as I get back on my knees', and the repeated 'I'm gonna *ugh* somebody, *ugh* somebody' which is quite hilarious and perfect to sing along to.
"Weapon of Choice" comes next and isn't too far from one of "Howl"'s entries, with a combination of bluesy acoustic guitar and rocking-out electric, as well as some good contrasting vocal-work between Hayes and Been which help bring the track to life.
And there I was thinking it was going to be a rendition of the Fatboy Slim number!
"Window" begins with Been on piano and is a much more mellow number than the preceding tracks, with some unusually high vocals as well as some good lyrics, 'So how's it going to feel, when you don't know what's real / You tell yourself it's love, you tear your insides out'.
A more grungy sound comes along with "Cold Wind", signalling the middle of the album, and then the funky-beat of "Not What You Wanted", which is one of the freshest, crisp tracks on the album.
Next is the average "666 Conducer", which leads into the change-of-pace set by the slow and steady "All You Do Is Talk", followed by the powerful vocal-controlled "Lien On Your Dreams" with its scratchy, echoey sound.
"Need Some Air" continues the feeling that some Black Rebel tracks are what you'd expect to hear from a band playing inside a damp cellar, with its bad attitude, clever backing vocals, dark and dingy brick walls, and hazy smoke-filled atmosphere.
The fast guitars, speedy pace and simple sound makes you feel you're one of the twenty in the small audience that can cram into the tiny venue, squeezed between a ten-foot high imposing subwoofer and an eleven-foot high bearded giant in black leathers.
"Killing the Light" has the feel of a finale track with its grinding sound and grungy lyrics, 'Ooo ooo, look what you started', preparing the album for the penultimate track: "American X".
Weighing in at an unusual nine minutes long, the easy-going vocals and drum-work make for a nice, plodding beat, which amasses to a long piece of guitar that runs right through to the end.
This track, however, isn't quite as epic as it probably should be, and ends up feeling as if it's going on for too long.
The album ends on the slow and steady "Am I Only", which develops from sad acoustics and vocals to freak heavy-rock moments, coming across as a Black Rebel version of a Starsailor album's final track.
Ultimately, this album is an excellent piece of work, reviving the old Black Rebel Motorcycle sound of the first two albums, while retaining the tint of bluesy acoustic from "Howl", creating a confident sound, which shows they've certainly grown up and know what they're on about.
The best tracks can be found in the first half of the album, as the second half is littered with two or three that are distinctly average, but there are certainly blasts of genius throughout, making this a worthy fourth entry.
Long live Black Rebel Motorcycle Club!
The full track listing is "Took Out A Loan", "Berlin", "Weapon of Choice", "Window", "Cold Wind", "Not What You Wanted", "666 Conducer", "All You Do Is Talk", "Lien On Your Dreams", "Need Some Air", "Killing The Light", "American X", "Am I Only".
[The CD can be purchased from play.com for £11.99 including postage and packing (at time of writing). It can also be heard for free from http://www.deezer.com/#music/album/118716]
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Took Out A Loan
3 Weapon Of Choice
5 Cold Wind
6 Not What You Wanted
7 666 Conducer
8 All You Do Is Talk
9 Lien On Your Dreams
10 Need Some Air
11 Killing The Light
12 American X
13 Am I Only
14 The Likes Of You