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Walking In the Shadow of the Big Man

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Album Review

Like R.E.M., the B-52's, and Pylon, this fine band hailed from the unlikely independent-rock hotbed of Athens, GA. The long jangle pop shadow of R.E.M. is extremely strong on this release, with seven of the ten tracks showing either full or partial influence of that group. Fortunately, the songs here are excellent, exhibiting much variety within this style. "Trail of Tears," a haunting antiwar number, sounds the most like their Athens counterparts. "Fire From Heaven" is more up-tempo, intense, and dynamic, while "Sleepers Awake" is an ominous, slowly unfolding song. "Ghost on the Road" is primarily a fast country-punk number that saves its R.E.M. stylings for its yearning chorus. "Gilbert Takes the Wheel" and the title track are jangly instrumentals, the former being a fast rocker with a thudding beat, the latter being a lengthy slow-tempo selection exhibiting noticeable psychedelic traits. Other territory is touched on as well. "Pillow Talk" is a winsomely energetic Everly Brothers-influenced song. The brilliant "Watusi Rodeo" is a jumpy pop number sporting over-the-top surf guitar licks and inspired hilarious-yet-uncomfortable lyrics about "Ugly American" cowboys in Africa. There's also an eccentric cover of the missionary hymn "Kum Ba Yah," complete with appreciative background audience shouting, an energetic drum solo, and extreme contrasts of loud and soft dynamics (sometimes within the same verse line). This odd yet strong album is well worth hearing.


Formed: 1981

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s

While frequently lumped in with such Southern alternative pop bands as R.E.M. and Let's Active, Guadalcanal Diary was distinctly different from its peers, with a sound that was at once melodic and rhythmically aggressive, and a decidedly literary and spiritual bent to the group's lyrics. And at a time when Athens, Georgia, was being hailed as the new center of the smart-pop universe, Guadalcanal Diary hailed from Marietta, Georgia, an Atlanta suburb where the band formulated its sound with little...
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Walking In the Shadow of the Big Man, Guadalcanal Diary
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