Big Star - Radio City LP

(Ardent Records, 1974)


"...more ragged and more rocking than #1 Record; the most notable change is in Stephens’ drumming, which has transformed from pristine timekeeping to genuinely driving the band forward through funky, complex grooves. Album opener 'O My Soul' is a thick, sinuous jam, with Chilton’s lone guitar shadowed by Hummel’s powerful bass and Stephens’ stumbling drums. The groove is irresistible, but strangely off-kilter, almost pointing toward the deconstructionism of the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. Radio City is not nearly as seamless of an album as #1 Record; it throws more curve balls at the listener, exchanging the radio-friendliness of the debut for a cocksure defiance that can almost be seen as a middle finger to the executives who had failed to market Big Star’s poppier work.

Throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s, old vinyl copies of #1 Record and Radio City were taped and traded among musicians who formed bands like R.E.M., The dBs and Teenage Fanclub, to name but a few. The former members of Big Star, though, had moved on with their lives: Stephens was working at Ardent Studios, Hummel was an aircraft designer in Texas and Chilton was barreling down an increasingly weird and hermetic solo path, producing records for The Cramps and playing with mutant rockabilly act Tav Falco’s Panther Burns. His solo discs featured as many covers as originals, and he rarely dipped into Big Star’s catalog when playing live.

Thirty-five years after the original incarnation of Big Star dissolved, a full-on exploration and celebration of this pioneering power pop group is underway. And while the questions sparked by the band’s art and career – can a group that never sold any records truly be called 'pop' ? Is pop a sound or a description of commercial status? – will never truly be resolved, the music speaks for itself." - Phil Freeman for Relix