BioIt seems strange to rely on a second century spiritual proverb to give meaning to the story of a rock 'n roll band in 2005. But the tale of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, and the arduous circumstances surrounding the making of its third and finest full length, Howl, requires just such a reference. Translated from the ancient Coptic language, the phrase in question reads:
"If you bring forth what is within you, what you will bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you."
For Peter Hayes, Robert Levon Been, and Nick Jago – the three individuals collectively known as Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – those words could easily have served as a bitter epitaph. But instead, they became a kind of rallying cry for the new record. For Howl is the sound of a band reaching deep within its soul in order to save itself; the sound of a band giving up its rock 'n' roll meal ticket and finding salvation and sustenance in a rich banquet of folk, country, blues, gospel and pop; the sound of a band finally owning up to itself and its vast limitless potential.
In content and form the 13 songs are as far removed from BRMC's previous albums - partly by design, partly because of the process - as they could be. Strain and grope for adjectives all you want, but the best and most accurate way to describe Howl – its title inspired by group's own vulturine spirit as much as the work of the beat poets - is simply to say that it's a line of demarcation in the band's catalog. It's the same line that the Stones drew with Beggars Banquet; that the Clash drew with London Calling. It's both a summation and a turning point, a nod to the past and a look into the future as well.