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Black Rebel Motorcycle Club: Good Vs. Evil

Every weekday from March 8 to March 19, Song of the Day will showcase a track by an artist playing the South by Southwest music festival. For NPR Music's full coverage of SXSW — complete with full-length concerts, studio sessions, blogs, Twitter feeds, video and more — click here. And don't miss our continuous six-and-a-half-hour playlist, The Austin 100, which features much more of the best music the festival has to offer.

Over the course of more than a decade, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club has perfected a sound that's both threatening and enticing: It can sound so dangerous that it would seem to endanger the listener's mortal soul. But "Beat the Devil's Tattoo," from the forthcoming album of the same name, finds a subtler, more down-tempo side of BRMC's style. Taking a cue from The Velvet Underground, the song opens with the bare twang and drone of an acoustic guitar and the steady jangle of a tambourine. The crunch of electric guitar arrives almost as an afterthought, giving weight to singer-guitarist Peter Hayes' sneering remark that "everyone is king when there's no one left to pawn."

There's a dark, ritualistic feel to the wordless "ah ah ah ah ah" chorus, while the simple, heavy rhythms pounded out by Raveonettes drummer Leah Shapiro carry a tribal quality. Meanwhile, conflicting elements, from high-pitched backing vocals to multiple guitar parts and percussion, fight to be heard over one another, as if waging the eternal struggle between good and evil. At the end, all Hayes is left with are his companions on backing vocals, so if he's going to do battle with the devil, at least he won't have to fight alone.

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Caroline Evans
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