What manner of madness is this, combining reviews of leather-jacket brooders Black Rebel Motorcycle Club with nice-guy indie-rock journeymen Buffalo Tom? Stay with us here. There are many bands—Dinosaur Jr and Green Day come to mind—that have honed and perfected their sound, such that with each successive record, decades in, you know exactly what you’re getting. J Mascis isn’t going to suddenly have clarinet on an album and Billie Joe ain’t going Broadway. (Oh, wait … ) Are they stuck in a rut? We prefer to call it quality control. Which brings us to Wrong Creatures and Quiet And Peace. In addition to sticking to their signature sounds, both bands grapple with mortality and the grim specter of death on their latest offerings. As you would expect, BRMC and Buffalo Tom take drastically different sonic tacks with such dark subject matter.
With BRMC, the curtains match the drapes in terms of words and music, typified by “Haunt,” a reverb-heavy spaghetti Western with skeleton cowboys, where the narrator has “buried every living thing deeper than the ground.” Similarly, “King Of Bones” grabs the gold for most menacing guitar hook of the year, offering cheery bon mots like “You’re gonna skin it all down to the ground.”
Meanwhile, Buffalo Tom provides a warm blanket on a cold, dark night of the soul. The opening “All Be Gone” is on-brand, head-nodding, toe-tapping guitar strum, frontman Bill Janovitz providing comfort with heartfelt vocals and a soaring guitar solo that would make Mike McCready blush (a compliment). The amiable music is a delivery system for bleaker sentiments, however. “Now my time behind is greater than my time ahead,” sings the 51-year-old Janovitz, “save up the minutes like flowers before they’re all dead and gone.” If these guys are about to face Saint Peter, they can at least take solace in the fact that they’re doing so at the peak of their craft.