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Music Consumption: Big Star
06/05/2001 Big Star: #1 Record/Radio City

They sure are name-checked enough. So what's the big deal? Pop. Pop, pop, and more pop. Power pop, sensitive pop, messed-up, depressed pop. And it's gorgeous. They were the American Beatles that could have been. The only thing standing between this music and megastardom was really, really bad distribution. It's a pity, but the elitist in me is more than happy to love this stuff alongside the rest of the cult. Sure, some of the lyrics are mundane, even dodgy, but I don't care. It's gorgeoous, gorgeous power pop, and I'll happily cop to being a fanboy.

#1 Record is a strong start. Highights for me are "The Ballad of El Goodo," "In the Street," "When My Baby's Beside Me," and "My Life is Right." Perfect summer car music. Check out the inner resolve of "El Goodo" and the harmony on the chorus! Groove to "In the Street," which I'm told has been the theme song to some TV show. The latter two are also fantastic, thrilling pop tunes that I'm not ashamed to love. Admittedly, many of the other tunes on this one don't do it for me--the really embarrassing "India Song" comes to mind, and I'm not much for "Thirteen," either. (Sorry if you happen to like them.)

The writing team of Alex Chilton and Chris Bell (actually the person who put the band together) split between #1 and the next record, Radio City, and Bell left the band. (Tragically, he would be killed in a car crash just when he was getting a new band together, but not before recording the songs that would make up the posthumously released I Am the Cosmos, a record beloved by fanboys everywhere.) Losing a songwriter might have hurt other bands, but not this one--Radio City, if anything, is stronger than the debut, and is just dripping with classic tunes: "Way Out West" (written with Bell, so I understand), "What's Going Ahn" (was Alex hangin' aht in the 'burgh 'n'at? Inquiring minds want to know), "Back of a Car," and the perfect "September Gurls." All of these are thrilling pop tunes I can't say enough good things about. There's lyrical ambivalence, beautiful guitars, harmony vocals...the works. It feels exactly right. Sadly, Stax didn't get the distribution right for this one, either. But you can buy 'em both on one CD, and check this scene out.

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