Big Star In Space

*****

Despite having scored bigger hits with his previous group The Box Tops, Alex Chilton is more widely feted as the force behind the less successful Big Star, whose early-Seventies albums No 1 Record and Radio City registered not the faintest commercial blip, but became cult favourites for discerning listeners. Chilton stood the band down for several decades until a fresh line-up - Ken Stringfellow and Jon Auer from The Posies, with Chilton and the original drummer Jody Stephens - started playing gigs in the mid-Nineties. That's the line-up on this comeback album, recorded with rough edges deliberately on show and guitar arrangements devised on the fly. Chilton often chooses an early take to capture the spirit of the performance rather than polishing the life out of the songs. And though there's nothing to challenge early Big Star milestones such as "Ballad of El Goodo" and "September Gurls", the band's blend of garage pop-rock, oblique chord progressions and layered Byrds/Beach Boys harmonies remains intact and effective on songs such as "Turn My Back on the Sun", "Lady Sweet" and "February's Quiet", while elsewhere there are echoes of Bolan boogie, Talking Heads twitch and Magic Band tension. The only real clunker is the funk pastiche "Love Revolution", but it's impossible to tell whether it's meant sincerely or as parody.

Comments