Ah, Bigwig. Anyone who picked up a SoCal skate/pop punk compilation in the mid-to-late 90's is guaranteed to have heard Kung Fu Records' Bigwig, NJ's pride-and-joy vegan punks. Through underground hits like "Sell Out
", "Girl in the Green Jacket
" and "Moosh
" from their first three full-lengths (1997's "Unmerry Melodies
", follow-up "Stay Asleep
" from 1999 and 2001's "An Invitation to Tragedy
"), or their sarcastic contribution to cult Fat Wreck sampler "Short Music for Short People
" entitled "Freegan
", Bigwig has pretty much made a big name for themselves. If none of the aforementioned titles (though there's a lot of them) rings a bell, it's pretty easy to sum up the 'Wig in a few words - fast, fun punk rock with solos.
Now, despite their profile fitting my tastes like a glove (especially back in the day, when all I listened to was NOFX, Lagwagon, Satanic Surfers, you name it) I never really got into Bigwig. I don't know why, but it took me a good while to even acquire my first Bigwig album, and it stopped at the one. Not that "Stay Asleep
" wasn't good, but it's pretty much by-the-book skate punk, and like most of the bands catalogue, its' blandness makes it age rather quickly. Even though "An Invitation to Tragedy
" with its metal flirts was a step in the right direction (the band's metal tendencies can also be witnessed on "Punk Goes Metal
", where they cover Slayer's "War Ensemble
"), Bigwig remained the kind of band you'd just add a song by to your homemade comps for good measure. At least for me.
And at least until now. Because after an almost 6 year long hiatus, Bigwig are back (pretty much, disregard the totally redesigned line-up) with a new album that may very well be their very best - "Reclamation
". In fact, when I first listened to this album, and opener "A War Inside
" kicked me in the face, I didn't recognize it as Bigwig until the trademark guitar solo after 12 seconds. And that's a good thing, considering their back catalogue suffers from a sort of Pennywise Syndrome (the same song over and over - sure, it's a good song, but still...). Bigwig seemed more creative and fresh than ever - if it's because of the time in waiting or because of the new members, I don't know, but I fully condone both if this is the result.
So, it was almost like love at first sight with "A War Inside
", but would the rest of the album hold up" Well, yes (with a few exceptions - few albums are perfect, mind you). Delightful songs like "Outer Rings
" (which, aside from sweet riffage and galloping rhythms, features an awesome whoa-choir, much like equally awesome title track "Reclamation
"), down-paced "Rat Race
" (try to not love the outro chanting) and "Time Bomb
", hardcore-esque "Cross and Burn
", and not to forget awesomely thrash-inspired "Follow the Leader
" - seriously, it's like if former-day Metallica had a decent drummer and played skate punk.
The quality that first and foremost gives this album the edge over the band's previous work is the aggression. I'm not talking hardcore-fury or metal-hatred, but a punky anger that really sharpens and compliments their semi-techy and extremely catchy sound. To once again mention title track "Reclamation
"; this would be a good example of how to retain the tradition of 90's speed-pop-punk without being sugar-coatedly poppy or obsoletely repetative, sporting awesome riffs and melodies mixed with urgency and a metallic edge. That same aggression is also resonating through-out the lyrics, which (not surprising) deals with classic issues like war, status quo and retrospection, refreshingly void of slapstick and novelty lyrics.
With their best sound and production to date, really solid songs (overlooking a handful of fillers, like similar "Owned and Operated
" and "Hold on Fucker
" and disappointingly bland closer "No Thought, No Spine
"), it's great to see that in 2006 there are still many more great skate punk songs to be written and performed. 1994 is not dead. Not by a long shot.