Every week, I’ll share an album I’ve been listening to. Feel free to list your favorite recent releases in the comments below.
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Boston’s cult indie weirdos have released their first studio album in 22 years. Described as “musical contortionists” by The New York Times, the band has incredibly catchy songs with unforgettable hooks. This is ideal for fans of Volcano Suns, Mission of Burma and college rock/alternative indie.
What the critics think:
Largely a casualty of “the major-label maw,” according to the AV Club, Big Dipper wasn’t the Nirvana big labels were looking for in the late '80s. After a resurgence in 2008 with the release of "Supercluster: The Big Dipper Anthology" from Merge, the band gained a new life. The AV Club says, "Crashes on the Platinum Planet" delivers “... clever, quirk-laden indie pop vacillating between hooky jangle and spunky, minor-chord uneasiness.” Fun, in other words. The Boston Globe says the album has a few highlights (like "Lord Scrumptious"), but “most tracks sound too D.I.Y.-dinky to matter, with minimal dynamic variation and components that sound disconnected not just from each other—that’s often the point—but from the songs themselves.” FAME says Big Dipper's “cheeky effervescence” with their song titles and lead singer's (Bill Goffrier) “Boy Scouty-style of singing” are great examples of what was going on in the “friendlier fringe acreage of the punk/alt/New Wave movement.” Think Talking Heads. There aren’t a lot of national reviews for this, which is a shame.
What I think:
I love Big Dipper. My first time hearing the band was via Tom Scharpling, a legendary radio personality with "The Best Show on WFMU." Scharpling is a huge Big Dipper nut, and I’ll be forever grateful to him for turning me on to this band. The first song I heard was "Faith Healer," of which the chorus is “Dealing with the faith healer and trusting in the palmreader.” I like singing that really loud. But on to this new album, released Tuesday of this week. I’ve only had a few days to live with the music, but that NOTHING has been lost in terms of wit, melody and weirdness is apparent. The reviewer above is correct in that the opening track “Lord Scrumptious” is one of the standouts on the album. The first lyric is “Lord Scrumptious created the world when he was a scrap of lad. Lord Scrumptious now watches us sweetly. He doesn’t like when we’re bad ... .he’s chewing on part of the world.” You get the idea. This is strange stuff that I’ll be singing at the top of my lungs in my car this winter. The song “Hurricane Bill” is a first-person song about a sentient hurricane, which is good, but not as good as "This Tornado Loves You" by Neko Case, the ultimate “I am a tornado” song. “Forget the Chef” has a chorus that you’ll have in your head for days. The best track might just be "Robert Pollard" about, you guessed it, the lead singer of Guided By Voices, Robert Pollard. The song also contains perhaps the best lyric on the album: “Paul McCartney, it pains me to say ... you have a great gift, but hide it away.” This album is great for fans, but I would suggest starting with the "Supercluster Anthology" if you really want to whet your Big Dipper appetite.