Monday, December 3, 2012

Bet & Buk Board the Big Wreck Bus

Well, here we go. Sorry for the delay, but much like Big Wreck, the perennial champion, a good story has no sell by date.
Bet and I headed out friday morn and decided to go up the NY State Throughway. It was a beautiful drive through the mountains and we sooo enjoy the alone time with a road trip. Gorgeous country.
As we kept getting closer the temp kept going up! It was 54 degrees (I don't do centigrade) when we rolled in. Dinner downtown and a good night's sleep at the B&B Shirley Samantha. We awoke to a blizzard and 21 degrees! NOW we were in Canada!
Sitting around, trying to plan the day, Betty lobbying for some sight seeing, me all nervous and jerky about contacting the band and Missy and Eric. It was an hour of waiting to hear from the peeps so I finally email Ian. "Come down to soundcheck at 2:00!" The plate was set.
I look cautiously at Bet, considering her sight seeing plans, Bet immediately says "To heck with sightseeing! Lets go!" A quick lunch to go and we hit the CE Center. It is a gigantic convention center, in the middle of nowhere. The wind was like 50mph and it was is the 20's. I know we're babies, that's short sleeve weather for you Canadians (as we witnessed that evening).
Big Chris welcomes us like old buds (well we are old). Ian and Brad are doing an interview in the lobby. Chris ushers us into the hall where the crew are setting up. The hall is gibungus. Cement floor, tall exposed girders on the ceiling; airplane hanger comes to mind. Bruce and the techs are buzzing about, lighting, sound, british Mike etc. We stood out by the sound board so as to not be in the way. We see Paulo, wave hello, and he walks out to talk to us. He looks great and is super pumped for the show. There's talk of the US release and some live bonus tracks that are KILLER. Brian and Ian are plugging in and Paulo was off to the stage.
As they warm up, numerous Zep snippets float out and they each engage each other in play. It's very organic and kinda wanders in and out; Ten Years Gone among others. It was so appropriate and natural to hear Brian and Ian jam some Zep. You KNOW Bet and I were diggin' THAT!
Next up Ian concentrated on finding the"sweet spot". That's where Ian can stand on the stage to maximize the feedback to facilitate those long sustained notes. They then did a full version of Control. Just magnificent. Not stiff at all. To an empty house.
Full bore blues groove, Caught My Eye, warmed the place up as Ian went back and forth with the lighting and sound crew. Ian breaks into his best Nigel Tufnel when barking direction to the techs. It's very loose and upbeat. During this time I am calling Missy and Eric, while Betty is phoning her son Dane. We're freaking out at how cool this is. Then I hear something that sounds so familiar… is that "Defined?" No wait, it's…. OVEREMPHASIZING!!!! Holy shit, they're doing O! My camera is in the car 100 yards away! I'll never make it, and they probably don't want me recording anyway…. It was jaw dropping. As good or better than the RTH version, which is a CLASSIC!
Bet and I are grinning ear to ear. There's more individual back and forth with Brain, Paulo, Brad and Dave. All the fine tuning dealing with delays and tone, attack and hall reverb are amazing. There is an overwhelming amount of detail that goes into creating all the nuances in the BW sound. 
Then came the best part for me. Ian starts staccato strumming this complex riffage. He engages Brad and they start and stop as Ian teaches Brad the essence of the song. It's difficult, but sooo cool to hear it in it's inception. I'm not allowed to describe it. More on this later.
Not that I haven't thought about it before, but seeing it in front of me, I am struck by what an undertaking a tour of this magnitude entails. There is soo much logistic work that is done, and such attention to detail and nuance to get the sound to be perfect. It's amazing that it appears to be off the cuff and spontaneous at showtime. Lots of hard working dedicated people.
They wind the soundcheck down and Ian spots us. He climbs down from the stage and walks out to meet us. Hugs and hellos and we walk to the busses. parked inside the hall, behind the stage where they have a table and chairs setup outside. They really appreciate the indoor camping.
I run to the car to get the portraits of Brad and Dave to complete the set. I'm a bundle of nervous energy and Big Chris wants to shoot me with a tranquilizer dart. "Relax, Buk!". I'm worried so much about being a pest and in the way, I become a pest and in the way. After the guys sign my copy of the big prints, wrap them back up in the big flattened packing box and I run them out to the car. That is to say I run AFTER them out to the car. As soon as I opened the doors a frosty gust of wind rips them out of my hand and I end up chasing them across the parking lot. Lost glasses and 20 yards later I wrestle the package to the ground and get a good grip. I'm a frigid' mess. I load it into the car and grab my camera. I have one more task to accomplish and then I can enjoy myself.
Betty is cool, calm and collected, hanging with Ian congratulating him on his wife's new TV chef gig. Betty's son Dane is a chef so she and Ian talk food. Betty is all cool hanging with the guys back at the bus. I take a deep breath and sit down to talk some rock and roll with the crew and the band. So many funny stories from tours past and legendary rock stars the crew has worked with. Rock star mania, accompanied with full accents and visuals that left us rolling. They are a funny bunch.
I ask Ian about the riff that he was working on with Brad. He looks at me with a knowing grin and says, "Yea man, it's KILLER!" He's got the whole thing in his head and he starts mouthing the rhythm showing me how he was trying to explain it to Brad. Brian cuts in "Guitarist and Drummers speak two different languages" Ian, "Guitarists are like,'it goes chugga, chugga, chugga, hiccup, womp, womp, womp." And Brian interrupts "and then that thing where I go Wannnggg comes in" and then Ian says, "Brad is all numbers, so he's like 'Wait, wait… so that's a 4 count, into a 2 count…???" Their interaction is classic.
And I know I'm not saying this right, but suffice it to say, that the language of the guitar player is sooo much less quantifiable than that of the drummer. Maybe that's why Brad in his personality is such an unstructured free spirit. All the confines of holding the band together rhythmically, necessitates his offstage license to roam. Waiting for spontaneous combustion. That's my story and I'm stickin' to it.
One more thing to accomplish. Betty and I had this idea to record a message from Ian to Jaiden my grandson. Jaiden is six years old, and was indoctrinated with Albatross since last year. He knows all the words and I catch him singing along and bobbing his head all the time. Well recently he has discovered, let us say, a more mainstream act as his favorite. He loves to "give me the business". "Grandpa, (Unnamed Popular Act) is better than Big Wreck!" To which I reply, "No way! Big Wreck is way better!" Well. Betty and I got this idea and we asked Ian if he would do it. I know it's nervy, but… he said he would. So we recorded he and Brian and then Brad, telling Jaiden that, "Big Wreck, was WAY better than Unnamed Popular Act. That it's just the way it is." Then they elaborated. They are all such funny, comfortable guys. It was a riot! Needless to say, my grandson was floored when we showed him the vid. Wants to grow old so he can get the unnamed act to slag big Wreck. He'll grow out of it…. or be scarred for life.
So we were off to rest up and eat some dinner. Got back just in time to see all the Theory peeps coming out for a beer and a smoke. Those crazy Canadian kids in their shirtsleeves and hoodies. The wind was whipping and it was 21 FREAKIN' DEGREES!!! We coat check and amble into the hall. It's nearly filled with fans, but the place was so big you could walk around comfortably in back. As we perused the crowd Missy spots me and runs up for a big hug! We've known each other through message boards and email since '98 or so when I discovered her Big Wreck site. It was the first/best fansite with links to all the articles and band info. We'd corresponded but never met face to face, having missed each other at the RTH show in 2001. She's a doll, such a nice girl. I forgot the camera, so I ran to the car as she and Betty chatted. When I got back in, I went to get some setup shots and realized that I had forgotten to put the battery back in the camera. It was back at the B&B CHARGING! NO FRIGGIN CAMERA! I was so bummed. 
Missy introduced me to her gal pals, who had been at their first Big Wreck show in '97 in Rochester! Leslie and Amy were excited to have the team reunite! Molly Canuck sauntered over and greeted us. FB is great 'cause people recognize you. Missy was saying that she was getting glances from people all night like they may know her and attributed that to FB. I told her I get them all the time 'cause I look too OLD to be at a rock show! Ha!
We all hung out together braving the drunks and overenthusiastic to position ourselves stage left! The crowd was a real mix of older/younger, hyped/zombified, drunk/sober, yet all diggin' the Wreck in their own way. It's a really broad spectrum of fans. As the show progressed we moved closer to the front. The sound was great and the guys killed it of course! During one of his solos in Caught My Eye, Ian stepped down off the stage onto another riser in front of the rail. He starts wailing away, eyes closed. 4-5 young guys, start the "I'm not worthy" bow down. It was funny, yet appropriate. Mid solo Ian opens his eyes, smiles and hops back up on the stage. He's so uncomfortable with the praise. I think that's commendable.
The show ended and we talked about hooking up at the Royal Oak about a mile up the road. I finally caught up with Eric Landry and his buddy Zach. Either everyone is much taller than I expect or I'm much shorter than I think. Anyway, the meet up was arranged and it was off to the bus with our all access passes to say our thank yous and goodbyes to the guys.
Well it turned into a half hour. They were all pumped up, talking about the song timing and flow. All the guys (mostly Brian) busting Ian's chops about the length and loudness of the solos. (We want more AND louder!) There was talk of the US tour and what big name would be a good fit for BW. Ian and I agreed that BW is a bit of an odd bird. It's in parts pop, bluesy, proggy, very musical yet muscular. We're gonna have to poll the fans to get some feedback. Bet and I said our goodbyes and profuse thank yous for them letting us share so much of their time. Ian was like "No problem". How insanely great is my life!
Off to the Royal Oak, where Grandma and Grandpa, the ladies who are Ian's age, and the young turks Eric and Zach all sat and traded BW stories. We had a great time with BW as our common ground. When Missy and the girls saw BW for the first time, Eric was only 7 years old! I asked E, what drew him to BW since he plays in a band that's considerably harder than BW called the Ompalunatics. Both he and Zach had discovered BW off of a Big Shiny Tunes disc. Zach plays guitar and geeks out on Ian's mastery. I guess it's a tribute to the breadth of a band's appeal that there are so many facets on which to grasp their music. We love being up where BW is appreciated and hanging with enthusiastic fans. Nothing better than talking music!
Our stay at the B&B was cordial, comfy and cozy. Can't wait to do it again. The ride home was cool, and Sunday ended with my NY Giants (it's a genetic thing) kicked the stuffing out of the Green Bay Packers. It took days for us to come down from this trip. I love my real life but our time in Canadian Fantasy Band Fan camp is pretty darn fine!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Buk 'n Betty's Big Adventure

Just a bit of thanks up front. Big Wreck is a band I discovered since sobriety. Sobriety brought me to the Lord and it's through His Grace that I have an awesomely great wife who is also my besty. So thanks Lord for giving us this unbelievable weekend.

Bet and I travelled six hours Thursday night, stopping in Darien lakes, Upstate NY. Up that morn, breakfast at Dennys' and off on our two hour drive to Toronto. We arrived at an expanding, bustling, downtown Toronto and made our way to the Danforth/Riverdale section. Bet had set us up in a B&B a few blocks from the Danforth Theater. I HIGHLY recommend this place! It was really nice, peaceful and very affordable. Our hostess Joanne was sweet and accommodating.

First thing, we took a walk on Danforth, up to the theater and about and made reservations at Allen's for dinner. After a nap, we were off for dinner in Allen's courtyard adjacent to the theater. We could hear the thunder of the soundcheck but couldn't discern the songs. Rested and ready we made our way out front with the VIP crew. 

We met Jamie and Erin, Bill and Kelly, Ian Shuye, Matt and his Sister and some other familiar faces and we were hustled upstairs into the mezzanine hallway where the band was set up assembly line fashion. I brought my camera (case and all) in anticipation of getting a shot with us and the band. We got our promo poster, handed it to Paulo who was first, got a handshake, he signed it and it was next to Dave and on. Limited interaction, and it looked like there was gonna be no pix, bummer. Full of anticipation and nervousness I get to Brian and I hear Ian say "Buk!"

In case anyone does not know, Ian has been an email buddy since I was given the opportunity to send him questions for the BW website. He allowed me to hear the CD early and write it all up for the Thornleyfan blog. I shoot him a one liner now and then and we say hey back and forth. My main objective is to refrain from being an intrusive pain in the ass douche to an artist I admire immensely. That being said, when you finally get to meet the person in the flesh, are you gonna be like they think and will they be like you think? I'm essentially an egomaniac with an inferiority complex.

I shake Ian's hand, and I'm like "Facebook is cool, he recognizes me!" Happy as hell, Betty and I take our handshakes and posters and move on down the stairs. Halfway down I hear Ian. "Hey Buk!" I run back up and he tells me to talk to Andy (Andy Curran BW's manager). I have no idea what's up but Andy gets my cell number and says that he'll text me at the end of the show IF the band is gonna do an after show thing. I'm flabbergasted but psyched!

Bet and I go down to the lobby to bring home some BW booty to NJ. Tees, sweatshirts and all! Just as we're done, Ian comes down into the lobby. Everyone else was outside and he just starts talking about Thursday's show, playing the first show for the hometown and all. Again I'm kinda stunned but Ian made me feel right at home. Having my wife with me (she loves Ian) helps me from acting the nudnik. Jamie (he's met Ian many times) comes in and gets us moving off to our own fan meet and greet! We had a lot of fun just walking and talking on our way to the bar catching up with our FB buds.

After a few hours, we go back to the theater (sorry Rikers) and check our tickets. We've got row AA which we figure is like 27th row. That sucks for VIP! Bummed we start down the aisle. We soon find that AA is FIRST ROW! Not only first row, but dead center!!! And of course we're surrounded by all the BW FB peeps! I feel like I know everyone there! I sit down and strike up a conversation with a gent next to me who looks to be my generation. He looks at me and says "Buk, it's me, Paul Merryweather from facebook!" FB was everywhere! He told me some great old BW stories! I turn around and behind me is Kevin Bissel, our bud from the Thornley Rocks site. He and His wife are back for the second show there in Toronto.

The setting is PERFECT. Betty is thrilled that we have such GREAT seats. Walking miles in heels and then sitting for a rock show was just what the doctor ordered for her. Show time… Lights go down… the smooth vocals of Head Together begin… And BIG WRECK hits the stage and CRUSHES the opening riffs! The crowd sings along and we're bouncing in our seats. 

The opening guit riffs of Million Days echo out and a big security guy rushes in front of us and waves the crowd forward! Hundreds of fans rush to the stage edge, Bet looks at me like "Wahhh!" and it's on our feet for the rest of the show! It was a bit of a bummer but it did hype the energy level in the whole place!

The show was fantastic! I danced, jumped, pumped my fists, played endless air guitar, sweated, sang at the top of my lungs (my wife is a saint!), stomped and alternately horrified and amused the young ladies around us. Kev and I are high five-ing, just enjoying the shit out of the vibe. I kept turning around to watch all the faces singing along to even the new stuff! Seeing Big Wreck with a home field advantage is the BEST! I even watched the band occasionally.

The sacrifice for being so close was the mix. I could only really hear Brad and Ian's guitar since we were in front of the PA. The guitar battle at the end of All Is Fair was one sided. I could hardly hear Paulo. However, Ladylike and You Caught My Eye rocked the house!! It was like a steam bath and paint was falling from the ceiling! 

The Oaf ended with strobe lights, an incredibly explosive drum solo, guitars feeding back, and the band walking off waving. Ian walks up to say his last "Thank you, good night!" Now get this… He stops, points to me, leans over through the outreached crowd, smiles and hands me his pic! All the girls at the edge of the stage turn and they're like "WTF?" I'm thinking the same. Yet, I get the "PICK OF DESTINY!" But wait it gets better!

Two seconds later I get the text. We're invited to meet up with the band later. NOW what am I gonna do? I've gotta ditch my buds. Awkward. But funny awkward. They were very gracious but busted my balls nonetheless.

While we waited outside, I spotted Chris Seldon from Grand Canyon. I had no idea what his name was, but I know I liked their vid (Ian played in it). I'm like, "Dude! You're that guy from that black and white vid!" I'm blanked on the particulars but I know it's him. He's gracious and patient and introduces me to Courtney, his musical partner who's standing right next to me! I gush over them about how classy that vid is and then it's time to go.

I explain the situation to Jamie, he says "You suck!" We make them look away as we cross the street, so they could not follow us. I told you it was funny. (Hung out with Jamie and Erin the next morn and all's cool)

Bet and I go in and recognize no one. Were 25 years older than anyone in there, so we just slide down to the end of the bar near the stairs to the bathrooms. We have no idea how this all works; is there a back room?; are we going somewhere else? I fish out some Canadian money and proceed to order drinks. We are happy to just sit and and relax. Bet sees that no one is paying but we find out that you need a ticket from Andy. I finally spot Andy and he hooks me up. We sit for a while, just basking in the afterglow. 

Right next to us in walks this large bald headed guy and his wife. I recognize him from the posters I did for Patrick Benti's band HAARD. It's Ed Mortenson the drummer!! I tell him how fantastic I thought the CD was! His wife is gushing that we're fans! They are sweet and Ed texts Benti that "Buk's here!" My wife is like, "How the heck do you know all these people!" "I don't… really."

Finally in walks the band toward the gaggle. Ian turns immediately and comes over and greets us. Asks if we enjoyed the show, how we were doing, just all homey and nice. He introduces me to Big Chris the gentle giant security guy who runs the show. He's like "Buk n' betty it's so nice to meet you, Ian has told me all about you…" Bet and I look at each other like…. Ian is off to get Christine to meet us. She is sweet and gracious. We talk to Brian and His wife Tina who is a TOTAL sweetheart! She LOVES the portrait I did of Brian (gonna make some high res prints and send them off to her!)

While Ian took care of some biz, I turn around and right behind me is Casey Marshall! We still listen to Fairfield regularly on road trips and told him so. Told him I LOVED the Eagles vibe on that CD and he acknowledged it's Eagleness! He said that they banged that out over a few weeks. When I urged him to get that album out he hinted that he might resurrect it!! That would be AWESOME!!!

For the better part of an hour Ian just hung back with us as he met other fans/local musicians. We chatted about family and the biz, etc. Big Chris, offers to take a pic of us and Ian. As you can see, I'm grinning like a lunatic. Betty says it's like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz…. "And you were there, you were there, and you too!" 

Big Chris says it's time to go and Ian bids his goodbyes. He thanks us and we thank him. We were treated like royalty. It was an evening beyond my imagination. We walked home giggling like little kids! I drank a large coke at 1:00 am at the bar. With the combination of the caffeine and all the excitement I laid in bed wide awake all night like a kid at Disneyworld! And that's our story!! 

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Big Wreck - Albatross - Track By track

Expect the unexpected.

This seems to be the most fun Ian has had in years and just maybe that feeling will be as contagious to the listener. You get the sense that Albatross was an unbridled joy in creation. It jumps genres with ease while remaining sincere wherever it lands.

Every song is different in texture, space, tone and feel, yet they hang together through their superior melodic quality, sophisticated composition and "tight but loose" approach to production. There's hard and soft, dark and light and enough memorable hooks to keep you listening for years.

The reverence & reference span generations of music. Ian has absorbed much and the band is able to deploy the pieces he's loved in fresh new ways while keeping genuine.

There are multiple tracks which cover the entire Big Wreck/Thornley catalog in their appeal. Fans of each phase will have something to sink their teeth into and there's even some exciting new ground being turned over, so get ready for layers, crunch, muscle, texture, nuance, beauty, hooks and funk!

I'll start from what I would consider the largely familiar or standard pieces.

Caught My Eye is a flat out dirty texas honk. It's so deliberate and bottom heavy it'll liquify your floors. Catchy as hell, memorable and true to it's ZZ Top forefather. The solos (yes there are two) are spare and measured but build within a tight sexy strut. They squeak and squeal over the top of the immense buzzing chords. The tag out reveals it all as loose jam. ZZTop this!

Rest of the World revisits a few tracks and B-sides from Thornley days. It's got a similar feel to Piss It Away, but has looser playing in a very tight composition. The drums are warmer, more natural. Written in character, it reminds me of the sentiments of Jimmy Darmody from Boardwalk Empire. It will be a definite Coma Again fan fave.

Control smoothes in with some distorted guitar and the Asian motif that keeps cropping up throughout the album. It settles into a very standard, languid, slow tempo Knopfler-esque, Horse With No Name, Big Log (minus the cheesy claps) exercise. The song is about the illusion of control that sustains us, but is shattered when life shakes us. The melody/refrain is catchy and rather standard classic rock but this style is new ground for Big Wreck. Never happy with just standard, they veer into the psychedelic Crooked Vultures section where all control is gone. Whipping through the background is some sort of theramin and slap back echo. It's jarring and disturbing. What's amazing is how Ian Thornley manages to crash the two moods into each other. The outro wind down is a cool distorted Ornette Coleman influenced guit ramble that lulls us back to cool.

Albatross, the first single, is a flat out hit. In the Jimmy Page, Stairway to Heaven, Midnight Moonlight tradition, it also recalls Ian's own Make Believe. it's a great lead in to catch the ear of the Thornley fan. But, then it drops down hard with Plush (STP megahit) inspired riffage. It rolls out with a magnificence that burns into your brain. The pre-solo, solo is a wonderfully sweet taste of slide goodness a la Under the Lighthouse. They tease us and then drop back into the verse with a couple of la da das. The infectious, poignant sing along chorus leads into the sinewy power slide which brings us to it's apex six string squiggle; That over-the-top, on the verge of losing-it note that says the artist is giving his natural all. That's that moment we guitar fans all wait for.
The outro verses are played and sung with the most incredible power and soul exhibited by Big Wreck in studio to date. This song is perfect classic rock created outside that era. Long live rock.

Next up are totally new sounds from different sections of the Thornley influence library.

Head Together, which opens the album, begins with Ian's vocals, in multi-tracked harmony emulating the droning intro of Zep's In The Light. Actually Ian's love of vocal harmonies made their way onto Tiny Pictures, but never isolated in such an abstract way. I think it's a great way to open the album, setting the tone for the listener, to expect the unexpected. Drop in a faintly Asian sounding riff (again) to soften us up for the hammer of the X. With the bouncy cadence of XTC's Stupidly Happy run through a Kings X grinder the riff bores it's way into your mind. The harmonies mixed with familiar drop D goodness makes for another memorable tune. But wait, there's more! All of a sudden the guitars go all chimey and mega multi-tracked with a sweet slide solo... and we're back to sweeping vocal harmonies to clean the palette before we're stomped back to Big Wreckville. Killer opener.

XTC - Stupidly Happy
Kings X - Other Side

Do What You Will which has been played in part live now makes it's studio debut. A pure Big Wreck romp whose riff reminds me of The Safety Dance from Men Without Hats. Preceded by Ian's goofy laugh (huh, huh, huh woody wood pecker style) It bounces into your ears with the abandon that the lyric evokes. "Do What You Will, do what you will with the pain!" In other words, kick out your inhibitions!!

The first verse breaks down to a bass line counter funk riff while never losing that Big Wreck power grind. Backbeat is steady but powerful. Parts call back to Breakthrough. However, while Breakthrough pined for acceptance DWYW says F-it lets dance! The second verse loosens up the reigns further, and the riffs fly all over and build to the chorus. "Do what you will, do what you will with the pain and my remains!!! Oh yeah!!!" All of a sudden the bottom drops out and we're in Beatle territory. Yes Lennon & McCartney vocal harmonies/phrasing. Its a bracing/exhilarating turn! The vocals and bass line warms you up and builds you up like "Boy you've got to carry that weight" off of Abbey Road. It goes to epic levels and creates a tension that can only be released by Ian's soaring vocal and and a tremendous riff!!!! Punch the air and stomp your feet!!!! Sweet harmony vocals release the tension just long enough to swing back into the main riff. Like a heavier version of Brian May's guitar in the end of We Will Rock You when it first kicks in. If you're not Angus bobbin' and air guitarrin' at the end of this you're a corpse.

All Is Fair is on the edge of expected. This one knocked me out of my chair on first listen. Expected because Zep and Big Wreck are a natural. But this side of Zep is new for Big Wreck. It's as pure a Zep interpretation as they've ever done. In fact, whether intended or not, it seems like a direct counter response to Dancing Days. The bouncy, happy, trippy, dippy summer fun that DD is, is all about potential summer romance. The mildly exotic Eastern riff, with that slippery bass line, the bright and hopeful upbeat production is all about youthful abandon and wooing that girl. Fast forward to that girl you wooed and you're 10 years married. All Is Fair's riff is similar, but hard bitten. The drumbeat and guitar more echoes Zep's For Your Life's metal winter funk than DD's summer slipperiness. The narrative is that of a young couple "married with children" devoted to their tribe and estranged amongst the busy family machinery.

As always though there is a progression in the lyric. Ian writes in a very realistic, relatable, common man way. Any honest young husband and wife can relate to the feelings expressed. The warring couple, laying out their complaints, while background vocals chime in like angels of their better virtues, trying to remind them why they must keep perspective and stay together. Pretty deep shit for a rock song. And let me say, that the groove and spikey funk is exhilarating. The bass line and drumming is kinetically stellar. The change up to the chorus is pop chimey and shiney crashing cymbals. Over it all Ian sings "All is fair, In Love and War... in this mess you made, we both know there's no one else... to blame". It's a hopeful realization but BLAME is still attached to the refrain. Another expositive verse, and that wonderfully warm chorus builds, and Ian launches into a solo that competes with his best. It's got that Page tone from Fool in the Rain. An almost bass sounding solo, (Guitarist Jimmy Page used an MXR Blue Box effect pedal during the solo to produce the octave sound.) Ian mimics the tone, but weaves the solo through funk beat, brings it to a sweet loving climax, and then extends it for another bar, soaring to represent the core love that this warring couple has. It's as beautiful a moment as Ian has ever accomplished on guitar. It fades to an Edge-like echoing pattern and harmony vocal bed to set up the intimate vocal where Ian turns it around. In a reflective tone, "All is fair, In Love and War... we both know there's no one else (they actually love each other exclusively)... my baby, it's just you... and me." No more blame, just romantic hope. Me and you against the world babe! And now it's on to make-up sex!

The funk storm that follows is spine tingling. The guitars jump in from left and right, cascade up and down scales, spike and rumble, machine gun on and off, intricately pattern behind, crunch and stomp with a facility like nothing Big Wreck has ever done on record. It's got the muscle of an Achillies Last Stand and the whimsy of James Honeyman-Scott in the pretenders Tattooed Love Boys. I wish that I could hear this over and over again for the first time. Overdid my expectations one thousand percent.

And now onto the totally unexpected! New territory mined, yet still left of center.

Wolves. This song, like so many on Albatross, is melody gold. This is a very textured piece. It starts with that banjo sparkle that dusts a number of cuts. The patterns builds a dense forest of sound that Ian's pop vocals can wind his narrative through. The drum pattern recalls a quirky Radiohead tune more than straight ahead rock. Behind it all the main guitar riff chuggs along like Ian's demo for Brit Pop did; incessantly. Simple, but with all the layers it has a wholly different feel. It's actually a combination of what sounds like banjo, mandolin, guitar, drums and bass. The bass wonderfully drives the track with a more Rn'B flavor like Why Can't This Be Love by Van Halen. This track despite having such "old school" instrumentation like Zeps Boogie With Stu (minus the piano), the modern melody makes it sound like a modern rock track. It's pure BW that could sound very at home next to a Kings of Leon track. Totally radio friendly. Lyrically, it reminisces about youthful cliques, a "packet of wolves" (kinda like the alliteration of "pocketbook brando"). It might apply to current circumstances but it talks about it in youthful terms. The chorus of "Bleed out your heart, if beats for someone else" is pure blues traditional sentiment in a soaring, sweet pop way. Now this is new territory for Big Wreck but it has all the musicianship, nuance and feeling that the old school stuff had, but in an incredibly sincere, memorable way.

Time. BW takes us on another brilliant pop journey. When I first heard it, this track by Daryl Hall came to mind.

Daryll Hall - Dream Time

Dave Stewart's production on the recorded version is great; very ELO-ish.

But Big Wreck's Time is more a majestic ballad. It's small and intimate at the beginning, just acoustic guitar and vocals for the verse. The chorus builds on it with mandolin, sounding like chiming clockworks. A delightful, glistening bed on which Ian sings the main melody "If I could go back in time, what would I change of mine". This melody sounds like it's derived from the "Tai guru dava" section of the Beatles' Across the Universe which Ian used to excerpt in the live show in the past years. Just a wonderful homage that builds on the legacy. The instrumental interplay is intricate and dreamlike. The drums tick tock, the 12 strings chime, the mandolin dusts the high end and the fretless bass does a low slide to move it all along. It's just magical.

Lyrically, Ian contemplates Time, the killer. Definitely the reflections of a seasoned man. "They say that it will heal up all your wounds, and isn't it a wound itself." Hang the chimes in echo, skip a beat and crash epic style! Now it's fully orchestration-al multi-tracked guitars doing cascading riffs and counter riffs over Ian's "I wasted way too much of it, Just wishing I could go back in it" "It takes time to figure out, why I'm always running ooouuut!" His vocals soar and lead into a section of "La, La's" that feel like Trick of the Tails era Genesis. Just so warm and enveloping. Then comes that Zep Song Remains the Same (it happens about the 4:05 mark) titanic breakdown flourish and then they switch gears, speed up and create another complete counter melody with background vocals and some furious drumming. "Left on our own, you count the moments, Time heals, it flies, it comes and goes, it takes forever, through the yeeears, we disappear." While it intertwines with the main theme it builds toward toward a massive chorus "If I could go back in time, what would I change of mine?" The two tempos dual back and forth, fast and majestic, while Ian soars above with incredible passion "Why I'm always running ooouuut!!" It hangs and the clockwork over heartbeat drums ticks us out. I get chills. This is like a movie theme, for sure.

A Million Days. Where to start? As epic as a Bond theme (Cornells' to be exact). Yet it's got quirky Tarantino movie TexMex flavors. Big slapping drums in your face, weird pinchy guitar line and Ian building the vocals around a description of some bad behavior that gets more aggressive as it progresses. Rumbling distorted guitar and heavy base underscore the rage. "Yes, one more wake up call, and my fist goes through the wall." Then It drops out to just acoustic, snare and the sweet wavey slide guitar more at home in a lullaby with Ian pleading the chorus "Stay with me for a million days." It's a revisit, thematically, to Big Wreck's Broken Hands (one of my favorites). The duality of human beings; how repellent and needy we can be from one moment to the next. Musically the two themes battle for position. The pleading "Stay" carries over as the cascading riffs build back to the fore. More description of the dark side of the more base personality traits where "And all these everythings are not enough" as the music rises again to levels of epic menace. Up steps Ian's little angel again. This time we get some mandolin sprinkles before the darkness overtakes again. This sets up a staccato solo like I've never heard from BW. It's got an ice-pick quick attack and it runs like a Steve Morse solo. As if the little angel is slaying it's evil alter ego while Ian screams in the background. The solo actually turns honey smooth by the end as the angel vanquishes the evil and the song tags out pleading us to "Stay" with Ian. He even drops in a vocal run reminiscent of Stay by Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs just to tweak our openness to the musical journey. This should be the closer.

Glass Room, on an album of uniquely singular compositions, earns the spot of most unique. This will take Big Wreck and Thornley fans by surprise, for sure. There are tons of layers and flavors as we've come to expect, but these are from unexpected pages of the songbook. This band is wonderfully talented and diverse and no song proves it more than this.

After a short, dreamy start, hard strumming and crisp drumming interrupt... space, and then a sweet lead bass line dominates. Everything is very spare and tight with Ian's sexiest (dare I say) intimate vocal tone since the demo All I Need. But this is not like that iconoclastic little gem. This is a radio ready scorcher.

Reflecting about memories kept in the mind's "Glass Room," Ian muses about the reasons relationships end and how the results leave a mark; clouding the ability to experience the reflection. First reflection remembers the relationship in a lullaby and then later it becomes dressed up like a suicide, or a funeral body laid to rest in a suit and tie. He shares the lessons learned placing and accepting blame. Painful or cathartic, it's all gold when put in perspective.

The music is pure 80's high pop as the Police collide with Dire Straights. More like solo Sting and Knopfler. Cool and spare it moves along at a rapid clip changing gears in sentiment and tone, from regret to realization while the music mimics. Clever and insightful, I can just feel the way memories become idolized until reality pops that bubble. The music moves from dreamy memory, to hard cutting reality in such an integrated way that you never lose the rhythm. It's amazingly kinetic like the Police's Sychronicity from one intimate moment to the next, but there is a section at the 3:00 that kicks into a higher gear with a low end that owes more to the Pretenders Martin Chambers than Stewart Copeland and it ROCKS!

Ian Thornley in Big Wreck and solo has many times collided song types in his catalog, but this is less of a collision and more of a weaving. It's one of the most sophisticated compositions they've ever done; the musicianship is mature and restrained throughout. The guitars are so restrained; they never hit that hard spot most fans expect, but the results are sublime. Ian's solo is such a fantastic Knopfler-esque reading he might as well have gotten Mark to guest.

This is a homage to what was the cream of the early 80's. Big wreck has officially begun to mine what was singularly unique from that silly (IMO) decade and the results are amazing. Perhaps my favorite track on a stellar album. I've listened a thousand times in a short span and it still rocks.