Big Star Dissection & Soundgarden Review

Jim and Greg celebrate power pop innovators Big Star. Plus they review King Animal, the new record from grunge godfathers Soundgarden.

Big Star band photo
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With Black Friday kicking off the official holiday shopping season, Jim and Greg offer gift recommendations for the music lover in your life. Jim’s been known to rail against Capitol records’ flagrant re-issuing and re-re-issuing of the Beatles catalogue. But even he’s been seduced by the label’s new Beatles Stereo Vinyl Box Set. If your giftee is more of a Pink Floyd type, consider the band’s Reflections and Echoes DVD box set, chock full of rare interview footage. Greg goes literary with his first pick. In a year that saw big rock biographies from Neil Young and Pete Townshend, he recommends David Bryne’s under-the-radar How Music Works - a book that’s part memoir, part meditation on the musician’s craft. As for music, he recommends the new Bill Withers box set, The Complete Sussex and Columbia Albums.

#1 Record & Radio City

Radio City

Jim and Greg celebrate the 40th anniversary of Big Star’s debut album by revisiting their Classic Album Dissection of the band’s first two records, #1 Record and Radio City. #1 Record might be nearing middle age, but the pop sound Big Star pioneered in the seventies is as vibrant as ever. As Jim and Greg discuss, the band changed the history of American music, without selling very many records. With a sound that combined Memphis Soul with British Invasion rock, they laid the groundwork for American Power Pop and influenced bands including R.E.M., Wilco and The Replacements. The original Big Star lineup included former Box Tops singer Alex Chilton, Chris Bell, Andy Hummel and Jim and Greg’s guest this week, drummer Jody Stephens.

Following their discussion with Jody Stephens, Jim and Greg each discuss and play a song. Greg chooses to highlight the opening track from #1 Record called Feel. The song was written and performed by Chris Bell. While Alex Chilton is the name most people associate with Big Star, Bell really created it. Most of his incredible work didn’t see the light of day until after his death at age 26, but Greg thinks songs like Feel, illustrate the power of his voice and lyrics-many of which convey the problems he faced in his short life.

Jim plays a song written and performed by Alex Chilton from the second album called September Gurls. As he discussed with Jody earlier in the show, this was a breakout song for the band and one that was immediately adored by critics and fans including The Bangles, who later covered it. Jim’s not sure what the song means, but for him it’s more about the mood that Chilton created. With its sweeping melodies and pan-sexuality it’s a power pop classic.

King Animal Soundgarden

King Animal

Been Away Too Long is the first single off Soundgarden’s new album, King Animal. As Jim points out, the title is an understatement. The grunge godfathers have been away for 16 years, ever since conflict between the group’s two big egos - lead singer Chris Cornell and guitarist Kim Thayil - tanked the band. Jim and Greg haven’t looked kindly upon Chris Cornell’s [solo

career](show/172/review/chriscornell). Has this former turkey redeemed himself on Soundgarden’s latest? Jim and Greg say no. Greg was heartened by the album’s first three tracks, but he says King Animal quickly devolved into a Chris Cornell solo album with backing band. As far as Jim is concerned, Soundgarden can stay away. He was never a fan and has no use for this record. Soundgarden gets a double Trash it.

Greg

For his turn at the Desert Island Jukebox, Greg wants to add a song by one of his favorite Power Pop bands. The term was actually coined by Pete Townshend during The Who’s pre-rock opera era. It now describes a slew of bands that use big melodies, tight arrangements, harmonies and prominent guitar riffs. The Midwest produced a lot of power pop bands, including Green. The band has had many incarnations, but it’s the constant force of Jeff Lescher that gives the group its edge and puts them above the rest for Greg. He takes their song, She’s Not a Little Girl Anymore with him to the deserted island.

Dear Listeners,

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