- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club got their motor running and are heading back out on the highway to Washington. They’ll pull into the 9:30 Club tonight.

Named after Marlon Brando’s gang in “The Wild One,” BRMC are born to be…well, primarily a thinking man’s garage band. Like the Strokes, the trio are considered “cool” by virtue of their black clothes and unkempt hair.

Their 2001 debut, “BRMC,” yielded “Whatever Happened To My Rock ‘N’ Roll (Punk Song),” and a constant comparison to English droners Jesus and Mary Chain. The comparison isn’t really fair, though ironically it’s a British Triumph that Brando rides in the film.

“That’s one piece of the puzzle for us, you know,” bassist/singer Robert Turner says of the JMC influence from his San Francisco home. But while boasting Brit fans like Oasis and Johnny Marr, plus an English drummer (Nick Jago), Mr. Turner and co-writer-guitarist-vocalist Peter Hayes are still American rockers at heart.

The new album, “Take Them On, On Your Own” (Virgin), opens with the line “We don’t like you, we just wanna try you,” a slap at fans drawn to the latest “cool” band. “Six Barrel Shotgun” sounds like Jerry Lee Lewis meets Iggy Pop, with the deadpan “Sun, it never shone on me. And never will.”

The single-ready “We’re All in Love” features a Stones-y rhythm (think an uptempo “Brown Sugar”) and a highly chantable chorus. It’s a rarity: pop about being connected to something higher, summed up in “I’m in love without you.”

Mr. Turner’s father (and the band’s soundman) is Michael Been, frontman for the Call, the impassioned Christian rockers who found mainstream success in the 1980s. However, Mr. Turner says he wasn’t a conscious influence, and today “he’s [just] behind the curtain now.”

The anti-apathy anthem “Generations” is pure Britpop, which may earn it some air play. (Expect to hear the crowd shout “I’m choosing sides!” during this one.)

“We try to avoid writing about specific people or times,” says Mr. Turner. “The girl that you broke up with, she’s not important.”

“With these songs, the details always change; the motives, the feelings, and the sound is always the same.”

So whatever happened to your rock and roll?

“I guess it’s starting to come back a little bit…that’s actually the most hopeful thing, now that that word is starting to mean something again,” he says.

“I don’t know what happened to it, but it might have another chance. But then again, it might be all over tomorrow.”

• • •

“In my head I’m saying, why can’t female acoustic-driven songs be rock, just like it is for men?” asks singer-songwriter-entrepreneur Jenn London via e-mail from New York. Check her head on Wednesday at the Capitol Lounge. She has rarely performed in the Washington area aside from Courtney Totushek’s open-mike nights at Dr. Dremo in Arlington, though the non-folkie Miss London is such a tireless marketer that last year she moderated the “Perseverance Panel” at the Global Entertainment Summit.

On her first album, 2001’s “Crazy Thoughts” (J. London Imports) her impressive voice creates mood far better than do her words and band. There’s a bit too much self-pity here, though on “I’m So Good” she shows a knack for short, petulant couplets. The acoustic songs tend to work better, which works out well since she currently tours solo.

“Never Thought” features a clipped, Alanis Morrissette voice; even better are the fragile, pretty vocals on the torch song “I Want Love.” A ticktock rhythm creates a creepy paranoid mood on the title track, as does her on-the-brink delivery of lines like “surrendering to him would let the serpents circle round.”

Best of all is the sexy and diva-esque synth-pop “Blood and Tears,” with its pretty, aching chorus and taunt of “I want to tease you/to think that I don’t own you.” The opening line “I, I want to own you” will lure the women onto the dance floor but the “matrimony” line may scare the men off it.

“They usually start as autobiographical pieces but usually hit extremes that I didn’t feel,” says Miss London of her songs. “I do get a lot of Alanis comparisons,” she says, but adds that Miss Morrisette “was coming from a more angry perspective” as opposed to Miss London’s “hurt-while-trying-to-stay-positive one.”

Expect some newer “dark but optimistic” songs at the Lounge show as well. With a double album’s worth of material written, Miss London is now finishing a new EP “Beautiful Sorrow” with Los Angeles producer Duane Baron (Ozzy Osbourne, Tracy Chapman), with what she thinks are a couple of “potential radio singles.”

She will, of course, market them herself.

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