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#1 HALL OF FAMEon 25 October 2002
This is the excellent 1992 Rykodisc reissue of the classic cult album from 1975 that has to rank as one of the darkest albums in rock'n'roll history.
Alex Chilton and what remained of Big Star from #1 Record/Radio City (their first brilliant releases)- Jody Stephens and producer Jim Dickinson crafted this bleak masterpiece. It opens with Kizza Me, which feels like a thousand come downs and is a manic song between Don't Lie to Me & David Bowie's Aladdin Sane (the sinister piano particularly). Thank You Friends is as great as any prime sleaze period Stones (Let it Bleed to Exile on Main St), also quite close to the ragged Neil Young of Tonight's the Night/Time Fades Away&On the Beach...Big Black Car is where the maudlin balladeering kicks in, a valium fade of a song. Jesus Christ is a classic song, as many hooks as earlier songs like In the Street & September Gurls. The subject feels very odd & you're reminded that lots of people commit suicide at Christmas...
Next is a cover of The Velvet Underground's Femme Fatale, which is quite out there when you realise the Velvets were as cult as Big Star are at this point in time (similarly Bowie & Roxy Music were influenced by Lou & co). The backing vocals by Lesa Aldredge are lovely...O, Dana is a mid paced pop song, with strange Peter Hook-styled bass. Just as you think the album isn't as dark as its reputation suggests, there comes Holocaust.
I have known this song since the early 1990's when I heard This Mortal Coil's version from It'll End in Tears (sung by the brilliant Howard Devoto), the lyrics are probably as bad as it gets. This is the sound of mental torture. It makes me think of suicidal actresses like Jean Seberg & Anna Karina, oh so bleak. I think the chorus sums up the joke of human existence, still Chilton continued and survived- which I think is the point. The final line is probably the best line in a song ever: "you're a holocaust"- rather than flirting with the final solution, Chilton alludes to the absolute horror and the kind of destruction that there are no words for as a metaphor for the low's detailed here. The sparse feel of the song is a fitting mood for the great Kangaroo (also covered by This Mortal Coil & later by Jeff Buckley), which conversely has one of the greatest opening lines ever- "I first saw you/you had on blue jeans"- which feels as great as the prose of Denis Johnson or a film like Last Tango in Paris...
...Stroke it Noel lets the light back in, gorgeous falling strings whose influence is more than apparent on REM albums like Automatic for the People. Jody Stephens offers the brilliant For You, which is a great pop song and could easily sit on earlier BS albums (though I think it has a White Album feel). You Can't Have Me returns to the sound of the first two songs, with experimental synth reminiscent of Baba O'Riley-Who. This is a relative of songs like The Smiths' Paint a Vulgar Picture & Nirvana's Rape Me...The sublime acoustic Nightime is up next and opens almost a mini-suite of resigned transcendent songs (think Nick Drake, think Mark Eitzel, think Will Oldham)- with Blue Moon (too great for words) and the closing Take Care- there is an idea of hope. Somewhere...
This edition comes with not only a great cover (and shouts of appreciation to This Mortal Coil, The Posies & Teenage Fanclub amongst others) but five bonus tracks. Dream Lover is odd stuff, not far from Dennis Wilson's Fallin' in Love in feel, while Downs is a song that Chilton is rumoured to have sabotaged for any commercial possibilities it may have had (not very apprent here). Then there are three covers- Nature Boy, 'Till the End of the Day & Whole Lotta Shakin Goin On- which feel like Chilton trying to go back to that place where The Box Tops came from (and not being able). The Jerry Lee Lewis cover sounds like a very black joke.
Third/Sister Lovers is a brilliant album, this edition the definitive version thus far- though if it's reissued again, can we have a lyric sheet please?
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