Friday, May 20, 2011
BIG STAR - NUMBER 1 RECORD
Unfortunately the first pressing also sounds like a pair of slippers. Memphis label Ardent obviously had other things to spend their money on besides quality shellac. Luckily this album has been released and re-released so many times that there is forced to be a half decent pressing out there somewhere.
So what can you possibly about this album that hasn't been said before? Well quite a lot if you don't like an impossibly forced close to nasal vocal style. Luckily it would appear that I do, which is odd because the mere thought of Geddy Lee is enough to turn my stomach.
'Number 1 Record' is basically 'hit' after 'hit'. It's an exercise in perfectly honed and fully focused guitar or power pop. I would stop short of saying that it rocks though because it doesn't. The internationally used 'Scale of Rock' has Cheap Trick representing 'absoulte zero' IE: The very least rockingest sound possible and this, 'Big Star' falls short of that. Now this isn't a bad thing. As a band they are aeons away from the demented and dull twatishness of Cheap Trick but do they rock? No, not really.
Big Star 'roll', and this isn't a weak joke aimed at the bands admitted love for the 'doob' either. They have a rolling sound, a sound that rolls.
So what's on the album? Well there's that song that Cheap Trick borrowed for 'That 70's Show', there's the blue print to Scottish Indie janglers Teenage Fanclub's entire back catalogue. There is also 'The Indian Song' which I flag because it's always stood out for me. Not necessarily as being any better than the rest of this truly solid offering but because it sounds like it doesn't belong. You could very easily drop 'The Indian Song' onto 'Forever Changes' and give it a Brian McLean vocal credit as it would sound perfectly at home there.
So is it all good? No, there almost has to be a weak link and that weak link is 'Don't Lie To Me'. That's what happens when a 'Rolling' band tries to 'Rock'. It just goes horribly wrong.
Now according to Google this album actually exploded when it was released which is news to me, I was under the impression that it was one of those under-peforming slow-boilers, something that wasn't given it's due credit until years later. But apparently not. So why didn't smash the charts? Turns out Stax (Ardent owners) had problems distributing the record so nobody could actually buy it.
To be honest it took me a good few years to 'get' Big Star. I'd owned it more than once (It's a pre-requisit for working in a record store) due to the fact that it came up in conversation on an almost weekly basis. The first time I gave it a spin I remember it just washing over me in the same way The Replacements and the Soft Boys still do. It was dull, wishy washy nothing special, I didn't get it. I do now.