Saturday, August 08, 2009

In A Big Country Dreams Stay With You...

Electric guitars...that Scottish bagpipes? In my early music listening days, one tape that I played a lot was Big Country's The Crossing. They were New Wave, but they had a lot of guitars, plus awesome accents and a kick ass hit tune. They were, what's the most dated slang term I can think of? The shizzle? Dope? Gnarly? Any way you slice it, this quartet with the bagpipe sound and that bass player that was in that Pretenders video around the same time as this had a great album. Let's take a look at Stuart Adamson's New Wave guitar rock masterpiece.

Ah, ATV four wheelin fun and the chase of love - the song / video combined extreme sports, a hooky song with a mighty big beat, those unique guitars and included a marketing person's dream by having the band name in the song title. If they had a self titled album it would have been a MTV video tag trifecta! Big Country "In A Big Country" from the album Big Country. I think a band actually did this once, was it Talk Talk? Anyway, ATVs seemed so cool (and to many people still seem really cool) yet when I think of the list of rock stars who spent their gold and platinum records on these machines only to get injured (Rick Springfield, Ozzy, LeRoi Moore who eventually died after his accident) it makes me concerned about the safety of the vehicle more than anything else. Oh, back to the song. I remember this one duking it out with Def Leppard's "Foolin" on the Friday Night Video vote off, I think this video lasted a little while on the head to head voting of this show.

I really liked the intricate guitars interweaving together on this track, "I pull everything Inward but everything's loose". The guitars are sorta prickly on this one, like listening to a watch tick very loudly. My second favorite song on the album, I like the dynamics of the tune how it races through the verses and then gets choppy on the chorus. An action packed jam. Guitarist Bruce Watson and Adamson's guitars interlock with airtight precision on the record.

After two loud bang up rockers the band mellows out on the third track. The guitars take on a delicate feel while still retaining that prickly sound with a main guitar part that sounds almost like one of those Japanese instruments. Here the band's working class / rural vibe begins to come across with lyrics about factories and moaning to God about their lives. A real nice song.

There's a certain feel to early 80's guitar New Wave where the beat was still danceable, "1000 Stars" has that in spades. Hurried singing, screaming sonics and that killer drumwork from Mark Brzezicki. I was going to say this is a bit U2 sounding and now I see on the CD jacket it was produced by Steve Lillywhite. It all just falls together, doesn't it?

One of the highlights of the record, "The Storm" brings in acoustic guitars on this number. The haunting female guest vocal blended with the folky guitars and almost violin sounding electric ones gives an epic feel to this song. Adamson's accent seemed even stronger here, I would picture a storm gathering over green rolling hills in Scotland and farmer folk running to get home for shelter. It probably doesn't help that most of my mental imagery of Scotland is based on stereotypes: Sean Connery, Loch Ness Monster, Groundskeeper Willie, Mr. Scott of Star Trek, kilts and bagpipes. I'm ignorant!

Head bopping fun, probably because of the "In A Big Country" video I'm still thinking of people romping through the country side. First "The Storm" scared them and now they're happy that it's passed. And yet "Harvest Home" bring back memories for me of walking home in the rain leaving the school bus and that warm cozy feel when you get inside the house. Weird.

I used to fast forward to "Fields of Fire" at this point on the tape most of the time. So my recollection of the next two songs are vague. Let's see...there is a picture of some explorers raising the flag in what looks like cold weather in the cd booklet, I assume they're the lost patrol then. It seems to be about these explorers encountering disillusionment and death. The last lyrics are literally "There is no beauty here friends just death and rank decay." Which sadly reminds me that bandleader Stuart Adamson later committed suicide in 2001.

Yeah, I've got nothin on this song. Sounds good though. Fast forward.

The bagpipes are back! A jaunty attitude and a sense of adventure overtake this galloping rocker. Makes me want to grab a back pack and run through the countryside. Through fields of fire! The little march breakdown is nice too. Tony Butler's bass pops come across strong in this fiery jam. Though it was a blaze of glory (working the fire metaphors here), this song wasn't as big a hit as "In A Big Country" which was disappointing. Unable to rise from the ashes, the smouldering embers gave off enough smoke and heat to make a minor chart entry in the US. I thought it deserved better.

The title reminds me of that horror movie where the guy appears behind you in the bathroom mirror and kills you. I remember now, that's Candyman. Not Porrohman, but Candyman. A feeling of impending doom and dread fills this song just the same on the first half. The second half has more fight in it as Adamson forcefully sings "Give us iron, give us rope." Stay away Porrohman, stay away.

After The Crossing I lost interest in Big Country, even though I liked "Wonderland" a lot I didn't get around to buying it. I had a friend get into "Look Away" in '86 but it wasn't enough to get me interested again. I don't even know why, they were still a great band .

No comments: