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Big City Rock

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Album Review

Big City Rock's 2006 full-length LP bears the name Big City Rock, as did their three previous EPs, so there should be little surprise that this major-label debut also shares a bunch of songs from those EPs. Four songs, to be exact, which is nearly half of this ten-song album, but just because these are the same tunes doesn't mean they sound exactly the same. Since their 2004 EP, Big City Rock has added a member and has signed to a major, recording their album with Brian Malouf and Fountains of Wayne's Adam Schlesinger; it was mixed by superstar Chris Lord-Alge, best known for his work with Green Day, Bon Jovi, Faith Hill, Alanis Morissette, Stone Temple Pilots, and Savage Garden. In the hands of Malouf, Schlesinger, and Lord-Alge, Big City Rock now has a sound that fits their name: it's absolutely huge and shiny, playing up their new wave and '80s arena rock influences, but sounding modern, particularly in how it pushes the hooks to the front of the mix, whether they're sung or on a guitar or keyboard. Some bands would sound crushed or needlessly inflated when given this kind of treatment, but it fits BCR better than the relatively direct production of their EPs. After all, they make big music, so they need a big soundstage, and they get it here, but it doesn't come across as empty pomp and circumstance, thanks in part to the savvy professionalism of their producers, but mainly due the group's considerable pop skills. At their best, Big City Rock sounds like a power pop spin on U2, a group that embraces the cinematic soundscapes of War and The Unforgettable Fire, but has fun as they kick out infectious hooks and sing about girls, which is a bit of a relief after the stylized classicism of How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb. There are allusions to U2 scattered throughout Big City Rock — "I Believe in You" and "Better Place" have the stately throb of vintage mid-'80s U2, while "Kind" has a keyboard riff that uncannily echoes the Edge, particularly "I Will Follow" — but they're hardly the only band that can be heard here; there are equal parts of Echo & Bunnymen and New Order in the atmospheric surfaces, while vocalist Nate Bott can recall Sting when he reaches his upper register (as he does on "Shelter"), or Michael Hutchence when he swaggers. In fact, INXS is nearly as accurate a touchstone as U2, since Big City Rock incorporates the chilly sounds of new wave into a sound that pulsates like rock & roll but is truly anchored by incessantly catchy pop hooks. But unlike the stylized, self-conscious retro-rock of the Killers, Big City Rock's '80s fixation sounds organic and not dated, since they have genuine pop skills and have a palpable sense of excitement to their music. Best of all, Big City Rock is something that is rare in the '80s-fixated modern rock of the mid-2000s — it's pure, unabashed fun, and that goes a long way in making this an excellent debut.

Biography

Formed: 2001 in Los Angeles, CA

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '00s

Forming in Los Angeles circa 2001, Big City Rock take their name to heart with dancey, keyboard-littered rock numbers that exhibit unabashed '80s pop influences alongside an arena rock attitude to make U2 proud. Working their way through the crowded L.A. scene, the members of Big City Rock found themselves opening sold-out shows for bands like Rooney and Phantom Planet by late 2002. The band self-released the first of two self-titled EPs that same year, with the second following a year later. A tour...
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Big City Rock, Big City Rock
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