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Big Wreck
The Pleasure and the Greed
Atlantic Records

When Big Wreck’s debut, In Loving Memory… did everything but burst onto the scene, I was as unaware of them as the rest of America. But then one fateful night in an Edmonton, Alberta hotel room, I was watching Much Music (Canada’s equivalent of when MTV was good) and here were four lads wearing parkas and rocking out on the slopes of Whistler, BC with snowboarders and skiers floating past them. How one could continue to ski or board while this concert was happening, I cannot to this day comprehend. And the rest is history. Immediately I was struck by the power and the immediacy of this band and their music. All that I could tell people were that they were the greatest rock band since the Who became all squeezeboxy. On The Pleasure And The Greed, Big Wreck does more than maintain that power; they expand its vision and drive.

"Inhale" kicks the record off with wailing, in-yer-face guitar work and aggressive lyrical content. This band does not hide behind its ability to rock, but rather writes poignant and poetic lyrics that contain as much puissance as the music. This song re-establishes from its first note that this band has outdone In Loving Memory… and created an album of forceful integrity. "Undersold" turns my mind around and images of the glory days of Led Zeppelin slowly creep in. Acoustic guitars underlie this slow rocker, creating a tremendous texture, which carries the song along its blissful melodies. An excellent example of what this band is capable of not only with guitar tones, but with songwriting, is found in "Knee Deep". Knee deep with no sleep at all, when you’re on my shoulder…Knee deep in it and I can’t sleep it off. Invoking the spirit of Hum on "Everything Is Fine", Big Wreck almost buries the lyrical content of the song underneath varying walls of sheer guitar terror. This song is a fantastic demonstration of the dynamics and pulsing rhythms that are contained on this record. "All By Design" once more tries to slow the record and bring it down a notch in its immediacy. And what it leaves out in brazen rock and roll attitude, it more than makes up for in its ability to tell a wonderful story of falling and losing oneself in the trials of life. "Mistake" has a curious Duran Duran feel to my ears, and that is nothing to be shamed by. The song is slower, but thick with keyboards and an awesome musicality. The plucking of a serendipitous banjo begins "Ladylike", and the song has a very Stevie Wonder-vibe, and then the guitars pick up the banjo line, and the rock erupts. This song is filled with interesting counter-rhythms for you musicians, and compelling lyrics for you English majors. And when she’s hopeless, Lord, she’s hopeless with me. The song stops and starts and weaves a tender trap for the listener, regardless of which part draws you in the most easily.

"The Pleasure And The Greed" is a thick rock song, filled with self-condemnation and strains of relief… It’s no fair to say I’m only taking what I need… The lyrics become even more introspective and dark, lit by a small hope. "No Fault" and "Breakthrough" continue to build the spirit of the record, with a creativity and use of instruments drawn from decades of popular music, but woven into a unique blend of style. Elements of 80’s pop and old style country music creep in, and "Breakthrough" has one of the most interesting rhythmic cadences of recent memory. Remember when Jimmy Page made Led Zeppelin interesting and was always introducing new-old sounds to refresh the music. Well, "Ease My Mind" is Led Zeppelin at its finest point. The song has a country-folk honk hidden underneath the acoustic guitar tonk and distorted vocals. This song seems to introduce us to the band that will carry us through the remainder of the album, a more carnivalish sort of phenomenon. "Broken Hands" is possibly the heaviest slow dirge of recent rock history, repetitive but never tiring. And the big red Led button is once again hit on "Head In The Girl", which I feel is the most standout track on the record, if I had to make a choice. This song has every single element that a rock and roll song needs to captivate and become a classic. The melodies and hooks are captivating, the vocals strong but tender, and the rhythms so tight and powerful that there can be no argument. Continuing the onslaught of second wind rock record is "All Our Days Are Numbered". With some amazing slide guitar solo work, this track jumps right off of the record to dance with the soul in rock and roll nirvana. "West Virginia" lays down a heavy, almost speed groove. It’s the chunkiest song on the album, and one with hooks enough to hold the ear tight against the speaker, once again with some tasteful slide-around guitar lines, and a wonderfully harmonious chorus. "Defined By What We Steal" finishes up the record with a slower, lightly floating song that takes a few minutes to rear it’s rock and roll head. Just for a second we’re alive, notice our lives are defined by what we steal… And what about me? Am I using my own words, or is there someone beyond waving their magic wand? This song is almost sleepy, but for the immediacy of the lyric and emotion of the delivery. Finishing up the record with minutes of restless, sonic guitars and wondrous noises, this track really is a perfect ribbon upon the package.

How can a band release a record of 16 tracks without one single mistake? Even the Who’s Next album had "My Wife" to offset the glory of every other track. No such sleepers here, folks!

What initially struck me about this band on their debut was the rawness and the strength of not only the music, and its creativity, but also the unique edge of vocalist Ian Thornley. His songwriting ability and his presence as a performer place him easily in the same league as such gifted musicians as Ed Roland (Collective Soul) and Pete Townsend. What used to be Canada’s best-kept best secret should be secret no more. Call your radio stations. Ask them to play the greatest rock band of the last decade, Big Wreck.

David DeVoe

Track Listing:

  1. Inhale
  2. Undersold
  3. Knee Deep
  4. Everything Is Fine
  5. All By Design
  6. Mistake
  7. Ladylike
  8. The Pleasure And The Greed
  9. No Fault
  10. Breakthrough
  11. Ease My Mind
  12. Broken Hands
  13. Head In The Girl
  14. All Our Days Are Numbered
  15. West Virginia
  16. Defined By What We Steal

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