Big Country



by ZIG USER (25 Reviews)
March 22nd, 2023 | 3 replies

Release Date: 1984 | Tracklist

Review Summary: That difficult second album syndrome.

Scottish band Big Country were hugely successful and led the mid-80s rock movement alongside U2, The Alarm and the reinvented Simple Minds, with thunderous guitars and drums in the foreground, dense lows and anthemic anthems to be chanted by stadiums with fists raised in the air. The band's classic line-up consisted of Stuart Adamson on vocals and guitar/keys, Bruce Watson on guitar and mandolin, drummer Mark Brzezicki and bassist Tony Butler.

With a sound more similar to U2's War, "Steeltown", released in 1984, shows the band's unique style with their guitar-driven sound to evoke the Celtic vibes of bagpipes, fiddles, and such traditional folk instruments. For their second album, Big Country took a heavier path, both in terms of sound and in lyrical content. Being a darker and more political work, it's full of social observation and examinations of the issues of the British working classes that found themselves unemployed when the steelworks declined in the early '80s. Adamson's lyrics are more developed and quite poetic in comparison with their debut.

Dominated by an OK first half, the record cracks with energy on a more new wave fashion along with a fine guitar-centered work, "East of Eden" and the title track surely go for that. Although catchy and there's some memorable moments like "Where the Rose is Sown" guitar riff, the songs on side one are quite bland and Adamson's vocals are not very versatile. The side two however screams boredom. Too much similar to U2's guitar sound, it spoils side one's strengths by dragging and unpleasantly revealing some serious limitations and that basically all their melodies are kind of the same and almost copying their own best song just to fill that second half. It just smacks dead. What a shame.

All in all, Steeltown being the follow up to The Crossing, which is a fine record, was always going to be a difficult one to pull off, but the band clearly suffered from the "second album syndrome" when shifting emphasis from the celtic mysticism of the previous album to harsh realities of the UK during the industrial upheavals of the 80s and the betrayal of the working class. Maybe on a try to get a more serious and cerebral work, but it falls short.

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user ratings (17)
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Comments:Add a Comment 
March 22nd 2023


Album Rating: 2.0

Reviewed as part of Morts "review a random album 2023" challenge.

sorry, not my kind of jam.

March 22nd 2023


Album Rating: 5.0

Good review, glad u gave it a shot at least. Completely disagree about the second half, none of those songs sound like “In a Big Country”

March 22nd 2023


Album Rating: 4.5

fair if it's not your jam, but i would say this is a solid expansion of the first albums sound. They have a formula, they add a few bells and whistles, they stick to it and keep the flowery lyricism. Personally a fan

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