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
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
- Knee Deep
- Everything Is Fine
- All By Design
- The Pleasure And The Greed
- No Fault
- Ease My Mind
- Broken Hands
- Head In The Girl
- All Our Days Are Numbered
- West Virginia
- Defined By What We Steal
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