Little Big Bangs Little Big Bangs littlebigbangs.bandcamp.com
One of the harrowing truths of the recent twentieth anniversary celebration/reissue campaign of Nirvana's In Utero (aside from the relentless march of time and the music press' fixation with fundamentally meaningless anniversaries) is that the current crop of twentysomething rock bands have never existed in a world without grunge. It has been such a part of the musical consciousness that Millennials regard it as "classic rock."
All of which is to say: Little Big Bangs is not a grunge band by any stretch -- there's way too much pure-punk energy and rock & roll snarl to call it that -- but the early '90s are part of the DNA of a band whose members were literally coming of age in the early '90s. The band even haphazardly addresses its lineage in the sprawling "Basement," co-opting "Subterranean Homesick Blues" while name-checking Kelley Deal, obscure Sonic Youth songs and, yes, Kurt Cobain. It may be tongue-in-cheek, but you could pick a lot worse patron saints for your band.
For its first full-length, coming after last year's brash Easter Egg EP, the quartet kept things scuzzy and raw in Jason Hutto's Smoking Baby Studio. He stays largely out of the way and lets the members -- singers and instrumentalists Eric Boschen, Ryan Macias and Lucy Doughtery, and drummer Drew Gowran -- sing, shout and thrash back and forth across these twelve tracks. As quick-and-dirty punk songs go, these are played with vigor and often sung in tandem, helping to multiply the intensity. Lyrically, though, it's probably OK that the words tend to get buried, especially when Little Big Bangs veers into entry-level punk screeds. Opener "Armada" is good at sloganeering ("There ain't no point in a white flag") but sticks to boilerplate hegemony-bashing in the verses.
The smaller-picture tunes are a little more artful and less on the nose, but it is more enjoyable to get swallowed in the two-guitar attack of these songs. The main riff for "Lucky" has the drive and trajectory of a Daydream Nation cast-off, and "Drag" has a similar push and pull to the guitar work, treated here with a little chorus effect to offset the constant crunch.
Doughtery's "Burn It All Down" is as sludgy and hazy as the album gets, like a youngish Courtney Love fronting Kyuss. When the dust settles, we hear moments of clarity and vision from a band that's wasted little time, playing shows and making waves. In one of the few unadorned passages on the album, "Heart Attack" gives a mission statement that Little Big Bangs proves over and over again on this disc: "When you turn on the static, I feel alive again."
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