sexta-feira, julho 28, 2006

Big Star *

More classic cuts, some classic Rock this time
- apparently it’s golden oldies time over here

Big Star is perhaps the most famous obscure band in the world. They're the definition of a Cult band. They had it all but despite critical acclaim they didn’t make it. Distribution problems and just bad luck prevented albums to reach a wide audience.

After their break-up in 1975, Big Star's records went in and (mostly) out of print, yet the band continued to attract new fans, along with legions of musical offspring. One of the big clichés of Rock is that anyone who bought the Velvet Underground's early records went on to form a band, and certainly the same can be said for the Big Star catalogue. A lot of the music on the Indiescene of the 80’s and 90’s and even today was never possible without the music of Big Star or they would have sounded differently.

Before founding the band, Alex Chilton had achieved fame in the late 60’s as the 16-year-old vocalist sounding like an old Blues singer singing ‘The Letter’ with the Box Tops. Basically a puppet for producers, Chilton felt unfulfilled with his minor role and walked away from fame into an uncertain future in Memphis with his childhood friend Chris Bell. Their mutual love for British Beat, Stax Soul and LA-styled harmonies brought them together and they formed the band Big Star.

Obviously they loved the Beatles, Byrds and Kinks so they sound like a pop band but there’s a certain dirty, even creepy, edge to it that ads layers of meaning to their music and lyrics. It’s highly tensed or intense music. There’s a certain urge to it. An element of anxiety that gave it a dark undercurrent not usually associated with guitar-pop music, is what their site says. A feeling of imminent collapse… against… an atmosphere of wild spontaneity… which creates… times on the album that the tension is virtually unbearable is what the liner notes of the second album Radio City say. The different dynamics and tempo changes of Daisy Glaze is a fine example of that statement. A lot of critics call it lost innocence [after the Box Tops debacle and the Altamont Music Festival], teenage angst and a sublimated Sex drive which sounds a very appropriate match to Rockmusic, if you ask me.

Apart from that, there are off course the gorgeous melodies and the awesome sound. Especially that of the guitars and the powered interplay which is highly unique and immediately recognisable. I'm not really fond of the songs that show too clearly the influence of The Beatles. My favourite one is O My Soul and it proofs their original approach to Rock and their Memphis roots. The song is from the second album but the sound and style was already largely established on the first album in the song When My Baby's Beside Me. The first album it seems is like a learning process, the second one is just on the edge of a knife, almost tipping over and the third and last one Sister Lover just goes way over the line.

Their best known songs though, are the ballads. Thirteen and September Girls are standard ballads that get frequent airplay on Commercial as well as Independent radio.

After the break up, Chilton and Bell worked again together in 1978 on a song for a solo album of Chris Bell. This song is You and Your Sister which got a lot of airplay years later in the version of This Mortal Coil featuring Kim Deal of the Pixies.

Big Star reformed a couple of years ago without Chris Bell who died in 1979. I haven’t seen them yet, because I no longer visit the big festivals, but if you can believe the critics, they’re still great.

#1 Record 1972

Big Star - The Ballad of El Goodo

Big Star - Thirteen

Big Star - Don't Lie to Me

Big Star - When My Baby's Beside Me

Big Star - Watch the Sunrise

Radio City 1974

Big Star - O My Soul

Big Star - What's Going Ahn

Big Star - You Get What You Deserve

Big Star - Daisy Glaze

Big Star - September Gurls

Sister Lover 1975

Big Star - Thank You Friends

Big Star - Holocaust

Big Star - Kangaroo

Big Star - For You

Big Star - Nightime

Big Star - Blue Moon

Big Star - Take Care

Chris Bell - You And Your Sister

This Mortal Coil - You and Your Sister

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