Friday, July 11, 2014

Big Dipper - Crashes on the Platinum Planet (2012)

This legendary Boston band (you can read about their excellent box set here) returns with a surprise release we never thought we'd ever see.  (Note: yes, this is a 2012 release, not 2013, but I've never really colored completely in the lines before, have I?)

Now when you first start playing the album, don't be put off by "Lord Scrumptious."  It's really good... musically.  Lyrically, it's just weird (yes, even for Big Dipper).  The second track, "Robert Pollard," is classic Big Dipper - a great track and tribute. (Pollard is a big fan and did the cover artwork as well.) Track 3, "Princess Warrior," is a Jeff Oliphant track; unfortunately, his songs don't work as well.  Yes, you may skip past this track.  And (spoiler alert) you may also skip all of the other tracks he's the lead singer on.  They should be on his own solo album, seeing as, stylistically and lyrically they don't play well with the other songs.  And (another spoiler alert) they're a level below the rest of the offerings here.  It's almost exactly the same as the Bad Lieutenant setup (which you can read about here):  Tom Brewitt, Gary Waleik, and Bill Goffrier good, Oliphant bad. To be blunt, Oliphant's tracks don't sound like Big Dipper, which I am calling a bad thing.

Big Dipper - "Robert Pollard"

Other highlights are "Hurricane Bill," "New Machine," and "Guitar Named Desire:  The Sequel." So it's part Portable CD Case, part Pile of Death. I'll meet them halfway.

[EPILOGUE] Let's go back to "Robert Pollard," as I've been listening to this song pretty much non-stop. Here's some reasons why the song is pop-rock gold:
  1. Open letter from a fan.  This is always appealing (see The Replacements - "Alex Chilton"), as in itself it means you have to be honest and open.  And this song is.
  2. Name-dropping.  Not only do they mention some of the legendary names in rock, but they dare to chide them.
  3. Self-analysis.  They don't just chide the stars, they take a verse to deride themselves.  It softens the overall blow and feels like you are witnessing an open wound, someone's private insecurities shared with the world.
  4. A great metaphor, which happens to coincide with the band name.  It's a perfect metaphor of fading stars, which works on multiple levels.  Just brilliant!  (Sorry, couldn't help myself.)  
  5. Melancholy and the sense of a real ending.  It's an epic theme:  their heroes are slowly fading from relevancy, as are Big Dipper themselves, and that there's little time to make a final statement before they all fade away forever.  There's genuine angst here, rage against the dying of the light.
  6. The music.  Well, duh.  But it's a great song to start with.
  7. The video.  It's a personification of the song, and I'm not sure why, but I love its earnestness.  It's just really well done, filled with humor, fun, and conveys the excitement of the song.  I just love it!
And that's why you should click on the video above.  See for yourself!

CD Placement rating:  This one went through many stages for me.  On first listen:  Sell-back 1.  After a few listens, CD Rack.  Now it's Portable CD Case.  Who knows, in a few listens I may be embracing the Oliphant songs and calling it Car iPod.  But Portable for now.

- Snilch

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