Tuesday, June 8, 2010

403. Radio City- I smell a rat.

Radio City.
Artist: Big Star
Year: 1974
Genre: Rock


  1. O My Soul
  2. Life Is White
  3. Way Out West
  4. What's Going Ahn
  5. You Get What You Deserve
  6. Mod Lang
  7. Back of a Car
  8. Daisy Glaze
  9. She's a Mover
  10. September Gurls
  11. Morpha Too
  12. I'm in Love with a Girl

I suspect a conspiracy at work. I think a group of the contributors to the list decided to have a bit of a fun with the concept and subtly include a massive gag purely for their own entertainment. While everyone else decided to take their awesome responsibility seriously and carefully evaluate whether Revolver was better or worse than Pet Sounds, a small but statistically significant bunch of giggling jokesters decided to subvert the entire experience. Whoever these funsters were they've given us not one, not two, but all three albums by Big Star in the top 500. Take that mainstream rock press!

As far as conspiracies go it's perfect. If they'd chosen a completely worthless musical act (Bucks Fizz for example) to appear in the higher echelons of the charts people would have picked up that something was wrong and approached the people concerned who would have been unable to maintain a straight face while trying to claim they were deeply moved by Makin your Mind Up. It also would have looked odd if Big Star appeared at number one but having all three releases in the bottom 100 is crazy but not so implausible it immediately calls attention on the entire ruse. Most people would look at the list and say "Oh another album by Big Star. They were obviously a lot more influential than I thought. They must have been seminal." Few people know what seminal actually means (and fewer still can say it without giggling) but it's a great way to describe an album that you don't really like much but think people who know more than you enjoy.

Look I have nothing against Big Star and nothing against this album. I just can't for the life of me see why it's here. It's not really groundbreaking in any way. Nobody is trying anything new, playing in a unique time signature or breaking out an instrument that hadn't made it's way onto a pop record before. You can't say this album was the first of it's kind, if anything it's the 10,000th of it's kind. The only thing unique about it is the fact that it sounds really British despite being American. It's totally unlike other American albums but a lot like a lot of English ones. That technically makes it unique but not in any groundbreaking way. None of the musicians are brilliant masters in their field. A list of the greatest singers, drummers, guitarists or bass players isn't going to include a member of Big Star anywhere in it's ranks. That's not to say they can't play but I'd describe them all as "competent" rather than outstanding and who wants to be described as competent? "Hey you have to come down to the pub there's this new band playing who are all really competent." In addition to five full listens to the album I also gave the single September Gurls a further five chances to make an impact and by the end of it I still can't remember how it goes. It's just under three minutes of aural wallpaper that leaves no impression at all. There's not a song on this album that I hated but nothing at all that stayed with me. It made as much impact on me as a ball of wool makes on concrete. The only emotion I had while listening to this album was confusion at how it possibly rated above almost half the albums that loiter in the charts below it.

The only way I can account for this album's success is to blame it on patriotic American's who grew up during the British Invasion years of Rock and Roll and were overly enthusiastic about a group of their countrymen proving that it wasn't only Limeys who could make pop/rock. Either that or my conspiracy theory was closer to the mark than I realised.

Highlight: The guitar solo in O My Soul. It's competent.
Lowlight: There isn't one. It's very consistent.

Influenced by: The Kinks, the faces, the stones, the beatles, and other the bands
Influenced: The Bangles.

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "After listening through this in my office, I realise that I've found the perfect music to listen to at work. It's bland enough so as to not intrude on my concentration, yet poppy enough to not bore me to sleep. It's the perfect background music: it's there, I hear it, but it doesn't demand that I stop what I'm doing to really listen to it. This of course is faint praise, as no band wants to supply music to be piped in through elevators or over PA systems."

-Good summation. Well done.

So do you know why Big Star is here? Please let me know below.


  1. Were Big Star the "TRON" of music. I mean they were an influencial band that influenced nobody. Still, its good to know they take up 3 spots that could have been taken up by Motley Crew.

  2. Big Star is here...because they are amazing! Honestly, those chiming guitars, that edgy sound, the melodies are amazing, and it's just soooo groovy! What's not to like?