Review Summary: It’s not that Big of a Wreck, quite the opposite really.
1997 in music was a somewhat regular year. The echoes of the alternative rock explosion in the early 90s were still in the air, however the popularity of that genre was in a declining trend. In terms of big records a certain diversity was present: Foo Fighters
, Faith No More
and others all released long-awaited follow-ups to various degree of success. There was also a number of intriguing debuts by the new bands. It is the category, where the first record by the Canadian Big Wreck can be placed. The album name was In Loving Memory Of…
The LP clearly sounds like a product of its time. The musical frame is alternative rock with its overloaded and fuzzy guitars and somber lyrics. However, the band refuses to follow the well-defined genre boundaries in their attempts to find their own, distinctive sound. That’s why it is all peppered with some Southern rock (represented, among other things, by the occasional slide guitar) and a smidgen of blues. Overall, in their approach Big Wreck is evidently more inspired by the 1970s rock pioneers than their own contemporaries. It is quite possibly the reason for the lack of polished pop hooks, aimed at the unsophisticated audience, and a requirement for a more reflective immersion via the atmosphere and textures in the songs.
For those with a fleeing knowledge of Big Wreck the first two songs that open the album – The Oaf
and That Song
– may sound familiar, and not surprisingly so, as both were released as singles and enjoyed enough popularity. The contemplative ballad Blown Wide Open
belongs there as well, since it was also released to promote the album. Then the subsequent tracks on the album begin to blend to a certain degree, which may be for the lack of elements to help to provide more personality. This sameness slowly starts to dispel around Under the Lighthouse
, and then Big Wreck discharges a decent triplet of Fall Through the Cracks
, By the Way
and Between You and I
. The final track Overemphasizing
is also of note, particularly in its vocals: on the one hand Thornley gives a heartfelt performance, but at the same time it is as if he parodies such a manner popularized by Eddie Vedder, which in turn became a cliché due to numerous imitators.
This should illustrate quite clearly the main issue with the album, which doesn’t let to rate it higher than just “good”. And it is not related to a number of filler tracks in the middle, but rather the fact that only a handful songs feel cohesive. As for the rest of In Loving Memory Of…
, it possesses a crude quality. In no way it is the fault of the musicians as they know their way around respective instruments and it is a pleasure to listen to this component (particularly expressive are the moments with slide guitar). But these various compositional choices do not always gel. It might have to do with the fact that the album, essentially, is a CD of demos (as Thornley mentions in one of the interviews), which was submitted by the band for appraisal to their label and later released following the firm decision of the management. This can explain that sense of inconsistency the LP leaves.
One more thing that should be noted is Ian Thornley’s voice. Despite the initial superficial similarity to inimitable Chris Cornell, eventually there is a realization that the Big Wreck vocalist is not a clone but a thing in itself. Ian possesses his own individual tones and emotional palette, so regardless of a certain rawness to the vocals on this album he definitely has character and uniqueness. And even though In Loving Memory Of…
is an uneven record, one thing is certain – the foundation is set, with the Big Wreck sound taking roots on this album.