Big Wreck is a band that has been releasing albums since 1997. I certainly wouldn't call them prolific, as they have averaged a record every four years during that twenty year time span. The band released two albums initially, then broke up for a while. Since reuniting, three more albums have hit the shelves, with Grace Street being the most recent offering. Just a side note, I am a fairly recent convert to their greatness.
I'll tell you, I was quite excited about this release. You see, the previous studio album, Ghosts, was my favorite rock album of 2014. It's such a pleasure to listen to from a musical, lyrical and influential standpoint (influential meaning you can really hear bands that influenced front man and chief songwriter Ian Thornley, especially Led Zeppelin). Some people say that you can't follow up a great album with a greater album. I disagree, citing Back In Black and Pyromania as just a couple of examples to prove my point. So the big question at this point is, did Grace Street equal or exceed Ghosts, or did it leave me disappointed?
First, I like to mention the packaging. The CD comes affixed to a tray in the digipak format, which I do like. There is a booklet that features band member names, credits, a thank you section and some interesting photographs. The booklet does lack lyrics. I checked Big Wreck's website but I could not find any song lyrics. So, it's a wash as far as packaging goes.
The album kicks off with a song that feels very similar to the lead track on Ghosts, at least it does to me. Definitely not something that I would consider accessible or a potential hit (if rock bands could still have hits), but a song that just grows and grows on you with every subsequent listen. The song alternates between a soft, beautifully melodic passage and a frenetic, pissed-off rant (aided greatly by some angry drumming, provided by Chuck Keeping). And may I add, Thornley is a lyrical genius to my ears. One Good Piece of Me kicks it up a bit, though it also alternates a bit between the soft and less soft. It seems like this was the first single released, but don't quote me on it. Tomorrow Down has a Zeppelin"esque" groove, which goes back to that influence thing I mentioned earlier. Another song that would probably never make the Top 40, but a cool song none-the-less. Next up is easily one of my favorite tracks so far this year. You Don't Even Know is so 1978. And when I say 1978, I'm talking Rod Stewart's Da' Ya' Think I'm Sexy, disco flavor and all. It is so groovy, I just love it. Useless is a haunting, beautiful tune. This song is MOODY, to say the least. Partially sung in falsetto, you've gotta hear this tune. "Remember when we called it a home, now it seems like that was a lie". There are multiple lyrics I could quote from this song, but I'll keep it at that one. So how do you follow up two of the best songs I've heard this year? With a third one, of course. That's how I feel about A Speedy Recovery. The drumming is just dynamic, as is the bass playing (Dave McMillan). Did I mention the wicked-ass lead guitar laid down by Mr. Ian Thornley? Thornley is writing amazing songs that, unfortunately, will not get the airplay they deserve in the current radio environment.
So here we are, a half song short of half way through the album, and I'd say that so far it's actually better than it's predecessor. But Motionless, another slow burner, doesn't carry the momentum built up so far. Digging In joins the first six songs in their excellence. It's another tune that Zeppelin could have easily written. I mean, the riff and guitar work sound exactly like Zeppelin. The Receiving End takes a bit of time to cure, but when it matures, it's just another terrific album cut. Floodgates could have easily served as the opening track. It's similar in nature and requires multiple listens before the melody truly melts onto your brain. The Arborist, while not at all bad, is really the only song that I'm fairly indifferent to. I've got nothing really good or bad to say about it. Skybunk Marche is the album's lone instrumental. It's pretty wicked. Excellent guitar work by Thornley and some serious groove laid down by the rhythm section makes it very worthy of inclusion here. The album closes nicely with All My Fears On You. While the song itself is great, the guitar solo is epic. Not complicated, just epic.
I have to tell you that Grace Street is a truly special album. I would rate it a tick below Ghosts, but it's really a very, very good follow up to Ghosts, which was as near perfect in my eyes as an album gets. The albums are similar in that they each have multiple songs that are instantly lovable, while the balance of each album requires multiple listens to absorb their beauty. Ghosts was a tough act to follow, but I think the Big Wreck crew can sit back and enjoy a beer for a job well done! And look, I'm including Youtube audio for the three tracks that I alluded to earlier. If you don't already own this album, this should whet your appetite quite nicely. And if you find yourself digging it, please visit Amazon and support these guys with a purchase.
Overall Rating: 4.7 out of 5 Graceful Stars
1. It Comes As No Surprise
2. One Good Piece of Me
3. Tomorrow Down
4. You Don't Even Know
6. A Speedy Recovery
8. Digging In
9. The Receiving End
11. The Arborist
12. Skybunk Marche
13. All My Fears On You
I'll guess I once again have to disagree with you. This album is a biiig dissapointment. It's been a while since I heard it, but I don't really feel like listening to it ever again. Boooooooring! That band went from being pretty great considering their last two albums, to a "whatever"-band to me, meaning maybe I'll check out their next release, maybe I won't even notice the next release, and I doubt it will be any good.
I guess they can't win everybody over. Thanks for reading.
Good Read!!! I liked what I heard of this via NMC, but as I recall it was far more mellow than Ghosts, but your review makes it seem like maybe thats not the whole truth and I should double back and listen again...
Thanks for reading. I remember not thinking Ghosts was special at first. I felt the same about this one, but like Ghosts, it has really grown on me. I don't think 5 songs does it justice. I think you need to go front to back a few times to really get the goodness out of it. Thornley is really a terrific songwriter.