This article was corrected on Nov. 5, 2001.
Since the dawning of the Doors and Velvet Underground, there has been a continuous cycle of black-clad, gloomy sounding rock bands. The aforementioned provided the sad soundtrack of the 1960s, followed in the ’70s by the Stranglers, Echo and the Bunnymen and Joy Division; in the ’80s by Love and Rockets and Jesus and Mary Chain; and the ’90s with Ride, Brian Jonestown Massacre and My Bloody Valentine. Now it’s a new century, and San Francisco’s B.R.M.C. is carrying on the tradition.
Sticking almost entirely with a droning, steady, midtempo pulse and murmured lyrics, the members of B.R.M.C. play it cool, and even with a jammed house, they barely moved a muscle onstage. With bassist Turner plucking out eighth notes under Hayes’ detuned and atmospheric guitar, they are all feel and shape rather than composition or song, even though B.R.M.C.’s array of hooks rises from the marsh every so often. “So Real” is a nod to KROQ-ish pop and effective, but, as with most derivative bands, the songs that come closest to pure steals worked best: “Spread Your Love” beats on the same lick that made John Lee Hooker’s “Boogie Chillen” a hit more than 50 years ago, and the band’s signature tune, “Whatever Happened to My Rock and Roll (Punk Song),” is almost identical to the Stooges’ “TV Eye.”
B.R.M.C. is still a fine club band, especially if one’s taste runs towards shoe-gazing melancholia. Whether this translates into success in the great market of cheery Middle Americans remains to be seen.