Big Star- In Space (Rykodisc)

The Arts — By on November 14, 2005 at 4:41 pm

So, we waited roughly thirty years for this? Big Star was pretty much the ultimate power-pop band and their two real albums (1972’s shimmering #1 Record and 1974’s rough-but-righteous Radio City) laid the groundwork for much music of the 80’s that was labeled “alternative” or “college rock.” They broke up around ’76, in the midst of recording a moody, druggy, and experimental third album that surfaced years later in half-finished form as Third/Sister Lovers. Singer/songwriter/guitarist Alex Chilton proceeded to embark on a solo career typified by records that are inconsistent and lazy.

Fast forward to the present day. We find Chilton (fresh off his dramatic helicopter rescue from the flood waters of New Orleans) reuniting with drummer Jody Stephens, and with the help of Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow (of obvious Big Star disciples The Posies) Big Star is born again. The problem is that the resulting record is stinky. For starters, it seems as though Chilton wasn’t in charge here at all, as evidenced by the four-way co-writing credits attached to the songs. “Dony” is a charming enough opener, but the trouble begins with “Lady Sweet”, when either Auer or Stringfellow (I can’t be sure which- I pawned my copy of Frosting On The Beater years ago.) takes the mic. In fact, for three straight songs (“Lady Sweet”, “Best Chance”, “Turn My Back On The Sun”) the most we hear out of Alex Chilton’s influential mouth is a harmony vocal. Heck, if it weren’t for his distinctive guitar, you’d swear that you were listening to a Posies album with some cool guest spots on it. Elsewhere, “Love Revolution” is sort of amusing… until you realize that this is a 54 year-old man singing “We demand the right to do it all night!”

Luckily, the new album isn’t 100% cringeworthy; “February’s Quiet” is a gorgeous tune with sweet harmonies and lovestruck lyrics. With just a few more songs like that, In Space would have been harmless. Instead, it may leave Big Star’s legacy with a big scar.

RATING (1-10): 3.5

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