So you think you're Alex Chilton, but you might not be sure what that means any more.
Once upon a time your baby just wrote you a letter (when your baby was Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham) and you were the blue-eyed-soul singer of teen pop sensation The Box Tops (The Letter, Cry Like A Baby, Soul Deep). That wasn't good enough for you: you're being told what to do far too much, your manager won't get off your back and you only get to record your own songs for album fillers and b-sides to singles.
So you quit The Box Tops, and hang out in New York trying to get a solo career going (where you meet one of your heroes Roger McGuinn, but don't really know what to say to him). Then you head back to your home town of Memphis with your songs, which you record but no-one releases (until 1997: the brilliantly-titled '1970'). You meet an old friend Chris Bell who has a band called IceWater. You join, rehearse, write and record. you change the name to Big Star. You come up with 'No.1 Record': the critics call it a brilliant debut but the Ardent Records' distribution arrangements are so bad, nobody can buy it. You split up, and then reunite for a critic's convention one-off. It goes so well you get back together again, and record another album 'Radio City', during which Chris Bell quits (thinking you've nicked all the credit). Once again, the critics rave. Once again, nobody can get hold of a copy. You do some gigs as a three-piece (see 'Big Star Live' and 'Nobody Can Dance'), but these don't help.
You also start drinking heavily and taking a lot of drugs. You are not-a-little pissed off about things.
So you go back into the studio with local hero Jim Dickinson as producer. All that really remains of Big Star is you and drummer Jody Stephens, and others come in to help pretty much ad hoc.
The sessions are a sprawling mess. The songs are a good reflection of your anger, despair and contempt. This is uneasy listening: it is basically the soundtrack to a person on the brink of cracking up (totally different from Joni Mitchell's 'Blue' musically, but really close emotionally).
The songs have a fragile intensity to which words can't really do justice. They range from the stately, stoned contempt of 'Holocaust' to the bouncy, libertine teasing of 'You Can't Have Me' and then manic, almost contemptuous sprint through the Killer's 'Whole Lotta Shakin' Going On'. And you find time to go back to the part-inspiration for the Big Star sound (British Invasion) with a canter through The Kinks' 'All Day And All Of The Night'. The playing is superb when it wants to be and beautifully sloppy when it doesn't care. The production does the whole thing justice.
This album is probably more full of pain and anger than beauty (on the first Big Star albums, these elements are more closely balanced). It's often described as Alex Chilton's first solo album, but it's still recognisably related to the other Big Star records.
Proving true to form, the record company didn't release it for three years.
This isn't a flawed masterpiece. It's a messy masterpiece. You should start with the first two albums (now available on one CD), but then if you like them you should definitely get this to find out how the story ends.