By BRUCE DENNILL
Big Wreck: Ghosts
The introduction to A Place To Call Home, the nearly eight-minute opener for Canadian rock outfit Big Wreck’s latest collection, tells you a lot about the mindset of the band, who are more – much more – than good enough to compete with their more chart-friendly colleagues but much happier to do things their way, which involves a focus on the integrity of their songwriting and structures and the high level of musicianship they’re able to show off.
A Place To Call Home starts off with a wall of brooding distortion, threatening to wander into metal, before morphing into a sort of paen to classic Seventies rock strained through a grunge filter. Thought that’s a hefty first bite, it’s not a clear indicator of the overall flavour of the album, with I Digress allowing new listeners the first exposure to the versatility of Ian Thornley’s voice as he matches the mood of the music, which takes in pop and hard rock in different parts of the song.
The title track reveals another facet, its John Mayer-ish introduction (and some of the solo guitar work that comes later) suggesting both a comfort with the mainstream and an enthusiasm for craft.
My Life begins with a towering piano and drum motif that will very likely be appropriated by a major rapper at some point – it’s possible to hear a touch of Dr Dre in there. It mellows out from there, becoming a hook-heavy pop tune that should be considered for wide playlisting.
Hey Mama recalls the work of another band where musical talent is palpable – the Dave Matthews Band. It features the same mixture of jam-band joy in the playing of instruments individually and as a collective and melodic passages that stick in the memory. Add the Chris Cornell edge that Thornley’s voice often hints at and the gut-punching thump of the rhythm section and Hey Mama becomes an almost guaranteed live favourite.
Another potential radio hit, if anyone had any sense, is Diamonds, folk music of the sort Led Zeppelin created. Also like Led Zep, Big Wreck can leap from there to immense riffs and the vocal equivalent of power chords, both in evidence in Friends, which plays out with the band stretching out the groove like a garage band who have just hit on a moment they love at the end of a long rehearsal.
There’s even a ballad in Break, given a Big Wreck touch in more man-sized guitar and drum, er, breaks. Come What May again pulls off the neat trick of sounding at once like the coolest acts of the Nineties playing muscular Seventies classic rock in the second decade of the 21st century.
- A Place To Call Home 7.75
- I Digress 7.75
- Ghosts 7.75
- My Life 7.75
- Hey Mama 8.00
- Diamonds 7.50
- Friends 8.00
- Still Here 7.00
- Break 7.50
- Off And Running 7.00
- Come What May 8.00
- War Baby 7.00
- A Place To Call Home (Reprise) 7.00