13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
This review is from: Third / Sister Lovers (Audio CD)
Big Stars' previous record Radio City was the one packed with all the hits, "September Girls", "Back Of A Car" etc. Only there weren't any hits. In fact the record didn't sell very well at all. On paper it was the perfect collection of FM friendly anthems which should've catapulted songwriter Alex Chilton into the big league, but due to record label indifference and other circumstances Big Stars' name remained a footnote.
It was against this backdrop of hostility and doubt that that Big Star entered the studio to record their haunting, final (not counting 2005's lacklustre "In Space") effort.
Due to contractual wrangles and the eventual break-up of Big Star the album was never given an official release and so it is unclear as to the track-listing Chilton originally intended. As such the CD release is schizophrenic, which may or may not add to its appeal depending on ones' tastes. It probably features outtakes which were not intended for inclusion.
This dichotomy however is not entirely due to the posthumous nature in which this collection was compiled. Chilton throughout his messy, sporadic career has released rampantly uncommercial and wilfully self-destructive music and this record seems to be where the seeds of this deconstruction were sown.
Book ended against pleasant cuts such as "Kizza Me" and "Thank You Friends" which would've fitted nicely on either of their previous releases sit unrelentingly bleak tracks such as "Holocaust". This spooky, unsettled, funereal mood returns again and again as the record progresses creating an overall sense of extreme discomfort. Bravely "Third/SisterLovers" disregards the accessibility which could've made Big Star popular in favour of something far more challenging and unproven. This is Chilton's masterpiece, the last thing he ever did which is worth listening to. It's flawed in places and probably self-indulgent too but that doesn't detract from the many fascinating highlights that are scattered throughout it.
Tucked towards the end there is a song called "Dream Lover" which is so delicate and fragile in its spectral construction that at any given moment it seems to be teetering on the brink of imminent self-collapse. It has no discernible beat, the lyrics don't say very much and at times the musicians appear to be playing different tunes at different times and yet, for reasons I can't fathom, this curious and indefinable piece of music may be one of the most beguiling and beautiful things I've ever heard.