Wednesday, September 28, 2005

The fall of legends

Play it: Big Star In Space
Play it: Gang of Four Return the Gift

So two acts who have arguably been more influential on underground artists today then any other (save The Velvet Underground) have reunited, recorded and released albums for the first time. Big Star releases their first in 30 years, and it's mostly new material, which is part of the problem with the release. Meanwhile, Gang of Four releases their first in 20 years, and it's a rerecording of previously released material, which is part of the problem with their release. Maybe there should be an exchange program here.

Let's look at Big Star's release, In Space, first. It should be stated up front, that this release was doomed in many's eyes before it was even conceived. When you only record three albums, and each one is an absolute must-own, anything that doesn't meet these expectations only serves to 'ruin the brand.' Couple that with Chilton's spotty solo career and disinterest in his legacy as a power pop pioneer, and you have a recipe for disaster. That being said, it meets/exceeds these artifically set low expectations, and just having the oppurtunity to hear them again is reason enough to give it a listen.

In Space is, on whole, a scattered mess, but that's the best part of it, as where it dares to get messy is where the album shines in a sort of endearing way. "Love Revolution" is a just plain silly (and messy song,) but it's the first song (at track 5) on the album that feels like it's got a pulse. The Posies' Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow contribute songs that seem to function (along with drummer Jody Stephens' "Best Chance We've Ever Had") to keep the album in the power pop frame of mind, as Chilton's songs would rather 'get their blues on.' Auer's "Lady Sweet" feels pedestrian, and Stringellow's "Turn Your Back on the Sun" feels like a call to Jellyfish (last holdout of the 90's power pop revival) to reunite. Stephen's "February's Quiet" is probably the best power pop song here, though it reminds one more of Teenage Fanclub then Big Star. Meanwhile, though, Chilton continues with his obsession with 50's to early 60's rock, which begs the question, why did he even bother calling this a Big Star album?

Gang of Four, on the other hand, are all about the brand and preserving their legacy, so it's fitting (and frustrating) that instead of writing new songs, they've just rerecorded their favorite songs from the first couple albums. Do they think that because Franz Ferdinand and Bloc Party are making some bank on their sound that if they just record their songs again w/ the latest compression that they'll be able to be on The O.C.? I know (that is, hope) they'd give the finger to TV execs, but it's funny to think of their songs in a Target ad, anyway. Selling an anti-consumer song to hawk consumer products is just so wrong, it could be contrained as punk. Regardless of intention, the songs still sound vital today, and some of these updates are actually an improvement ("To Hell with Poverty 2005," for one)so it's worth a few spins. But for me, I'm sticking with the original recordings, especially Entertainment!

All this leads me to believe that both bands should go back in the studio and trade concepts. Chilton should be forced to rerecord all the best songs from Big Star, and Gang of Four will go in and record all new material, and we'll see which wins out. I think Gang of Four is already on that path, while Chilton would rather ride out a hurricane then relive his own past, so we know the answer to that one.

Big Star to release new album
Everything old is new again (Gang of Four's Entertainment!)
Chilton rides out Hurricane Katrina
Power Pop 1966-1978 - Pioneers
Second time around (The Posies)
More ammo for the Power Pop revival front (Teenage Fanclub)

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drake leLane said...

Big Star - In Space

* "Dony" - Big Star
* "Lady Sweet" - Big Star
* "Best Chance We've Ever Had" - Big Star
* "Turn My Back On the Sun" - Big Star
* "Love Revolution" - Big Star
* "February's Quiet" - Big Star
* "Mine Exclusively" - Big Star
* "A Whole New Thing" - Big Star
* "Aria Largo" - Big Star
* "Hung Up with Summer" - Big Star
* "Do You Wanna Make It" - Big Star
* "Makeover" - Big Star

drake leLane said...

Gang of Four - Return the Gift

* "To Hell With Poverty 2005" - Gang Of Four
* "Natural's Not In It" - Gang Of Four
* "Not Great Men" - Gang Of Four
* "Why Theory?" - Gang Of Four
* "Anthrax" - Gang Of Four
* "Paralysed" - Gang Of Four
* "What We All Want" - Gang Of Four
* "Ether" - Gang Of Four
* "He'd Send The Army" - Gang Of Four
* "Capital" - Gang Of Four
* "I Love A Man In Uniform" - Gang Of Four
* "At Home He's A Tourist" - Gang Of Four
* "We Live As We Dream, Alone" - Gang Of Four